As the holiday season approaches, shoppers are looking for that perfect, one-of-a-kind gift. Mallory Shotwell, Cultivate director and founder, is hoping to showcase local artists and businesses who can offer exactly that.
For the first time ever, Cultivate, a nonprofit arts and education organization in Grand Rapids, is offering a local artist holiday guide. This inaugural publication will feature area artists and small businesses within 100 miles of the city in one comprehensive list of makers.
The holiday guide will be available both online and in magazine form and Cultivate is hoping to reach between 250,000 and 375,000 readers. The physical copy will be available at local businesses such as hotels, artist markets, tourism agencies and interior design firms.
Shotwell said she is hoping to recreate that childhood feeling of flipping excitedly through a toy catalog and dog-earing the pages that stand out. “But for adults who want to buy local art,” she added. “(Just) flip through it and (say), ‘Oh, that’s gorgeous. I want that,’ and circle it, but you’re an adult.”
So far, Shotwell said more than 115 artists had applied (free of charge) to be included in the holiday publication. She said “any and all” types of artists were encouraged to apply. According to the application, the organization accepted anything from fine art to home goods, apparel and bath and body items like soaps and lotions.
Currently, the artist lineup includes paintings, stone jewelry and even local musicians, as well as boutiques and art galleries in the Grand Rapids area and a map of every art fair and market.
“One thing that we’ve really noticed is, there are so many different options for where to find art events going on around town,” Shotwell said. “There’s lots of different ways, but one way that we hope to connect and support is by providing that one single list where people don’t have to search five or six different sites. They have one central location.”
With this comprehensive guide, Shotwell and the Cultivate team hopes to keep holiday shopping local and connect buyers directly to artists.
She said the guide is for anyone “who wants to support local (arts/businesses) but doesn’t know where to start and maybe a market feels overwhelming. This is something that you can easily do with one full guide from the comfort of your home, instead of going to Target, if you will.
“I think really, people often don’t know where to start. So (we are) creating that sense of engagement where people do have that connection with amazing galleries and boutique shops in the community and sharing both the artists and their work and process.”
The magazine will include artist information such as business or artist name, website information that will be linked in the digital version and a photo of their work.
Shotwell said the magazine will be “categorized by different things, whether that’s a stocking stuffer or fine art or apparel or jewelry, and people can easily sift and find exactly the thing that they want from a local artist within a hundred miles.”
According to Shotwell, this publication is planned to be an annual offering, joining Cultivate’s roster of magazines and local guides the organization will be rolling out over the next year, including an artist resource publication.
Often, Shotwell said, artists who are attempting to support themselves with their work are unsure how to start or how to tackle the business aspects of marketing themselves and their product, managing funding and reaching an audience successfully. Cultivate’s holiday guide, among other initiatives the organization is planning, will help artists and makers who are small business owners in the area to connect with people looking for their products.
“Like any mom and pop store, like any brick and mortar store, we (artists) are hard-working, independent business owners,” she said. “Oftentimes, the arts can be perceived as an easy career where we’re just sitting around and painting all the time. But really there’s a lot of amazing business and a lot of work that goes into it and (we need to) really value that, similar to any other small business, whether that’s a plumber or a lawyer with a private practice.”
From Shotwell’s perspective, taking the time to value and support local creators and artists is important to the economy as well.
“It really is (not only) keeping money in our local economy, but it’s keeping money in our local creative economy, and it’s keeping that economy and these businesses alive,” she said. “And that has such an amazing trickle-down effect where not only are people empowered within their own tiny small businesses or their own homes or the studio that they work in, but they’re also inspiring new artists that felt like maybe they couldn’t do it.”
The inaugural Cultivate holiday local artist guide will be curated entirely by the Cultivate team and will be available digitally on Nov. 5 and in print on Nov. 12.