Shoppers eager to finish up gift lists might be tempted to head to department stores. But to find the perfect present for friends and relatives, it’s often better to think local.
Wander down some of the downtown areas and peek into shops in the Northland, and you’ll not only delight your loved one — you’ll be supporting local artists when you find those perfect gifts.
We’ve checked out only a handful of the many shops that offer everything from pottery to clothing from Kansas City-area most creative folks. But we’ve only touched on a few of the great spots out there; we trust you’ll find many others as you explore the Northland.
508 N.W. Englewood Roa, Kansas City, Mo.
Andrea Adams, owner of Bead Boutique, has a very apt phrasing to characterize her store’s wares.
“It’s what we call bridge jewelry: it’s not your fine Meierotto, Tivol and Tiffany (& Co.). And it’s not your Target and Charming Charlies,” she said walking the sales floor of her jewelry boutique.
She points to a $65 necklace of woven leather, jasper and turquoise created in the style of the Hill tribe from Southeast Asia.
“It’s the bridge between the fashion and the fine,” she said.
Contrasting with the store’s more earthen interests are other handcrafted items like a woven bead necklace, a column twisting like a double helix into a complete circle.
“That’s really popular. That’s why we carry so much of that,” Adams said.
In addition to the gallery of local jewelry artists’ finished pieces, Adams’ store also carries some of the materials for hobbyists, as well as for more the serious artists who sell their pieces in stores like Bead Boutique.
Adams said a separate gallery space may be a next step for the store.
7115 N Locust St., Gladstone, Mo.
Flavored gourmet popcorn is Gladstone independent retailer Funky Monkey’s primary hustle, but artwork and handcrafted goods are displayed alongside its selection of treats.
Shown above the colored bags of popcorn are nature photography by Genevieve Casey, bucolic scenes printed on to metal sheets. Her husband, Wes Casey, is the creator of the metal orangutan standing guard in front of the store.
“This is the ‘Man of the Forest,’” the work’s given title, said the store’s co-owner, Steve Gasperi. “Because what we want to do is bring in some fun, you know.”
Visitor wandering into the store will also discover hats made of a curious combination of chunky needlework and aluminum cans. They’re made by Katherine and John Browning, the team that makes up Kat’s Cool Creations.
Other finds include homemade barbecue sauce by local gastronomic artists working under the company name Born with Seoul; Kicks Case, high-grade plastic display cases made by the company Sneaker Collectors; and homespun treats for pets by Porter’s Pet Pantry.
Gasperi said the idea to team up with other micro businesses seemed a natural part of the store’s development. He said he didn’t intentionally set out to meet other creative self-starters, but he kept finding himself in conversation with people who were making things that fit in with the store’s concept.
“These (other entrepreneurs) are people I’ve run across in social events,” Gasperi said. “They’re working hard, they get it. Let’s have an outlet for them.”
Art & Frame Warehouse
8642 N. Boardwalk Ave., Kansas City
Along with the robust selection of nationally known artists inside the Art & Frame Warehouse in Zona Rosa are familiar sights: photos of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and shots of the Royals’ championship games.
“We try to find people who have unique takes on the Kansas City industry,” said owner Sean Smith.
The framing business is key to Smith’s operations, but having art within the building — pieces that require frames — helps him buy in quantities that amount to real purchasing power.
And there’s plenty of space for the Kansas City-centered photos and paintings, as the store boasts around 3,500 square feet of gallery space.
Liberty City Hall
101 E. Kansas, Liberty, Mo.
A key responsibility of the Liberty Art Commission, Liberty’s city arts board, was to more closely align the city’s activities to support the local arts scene.
So they moved the artists in with them.
Visitors to the Liberty City Hall are greeted with a selection of local art for view and sale. Currently, the atrium features the photography of Denise Billman and her travels to Europe.
Billman is a frequent fixture at First Fridays in downtown Kansas City.
“I’ve known Denise a long time. She was kind of hesitant to show her work,” said Jonna Wensel said, community development manager. “We convinced her to show it.”
There atrium’s space is filled with pieces by local artists recruited through the arts commission. That means as many as 40 pieces for group shows, or up to eight larger pieces belonging to just one artist.
Before the board started hosting regular shows, Wensel said the lobby was just dead space and blank walls. Its use as a small gallery for artists and a gathering space for receptions held in conjunction with those shows is a definite improvement, Wensel said.
Northland Exposure Artists’ Gallery
110 Main St., Parkville
About 40 artists show in the Northland Exposure Artists’ Gallery, Parkville’s artist co-op located in its historic downtown district.
Mediums on display include photography, pottery and jewelry.
Artists comes from as far as as Lawrence, Kan., to show at the gallery, a favorite spot for the region’s collectors.
The co-op lives on the contributions of its creatives — the membership fees, commissions on sold art and in-kind labor artists donate as gallery staff — to minimize overhead and maximize the benefit to those responsible for the works inside.
“There’s a lot of really good artists. People should come if they like to support their local artists, and we have a little bit of everything: pottery, jewelry … and photography,” said Margarita Tinder, a Parkville painter. Tinder has shown at the gallery for five years.
“Gladstone has always been committed to art,” community center administrative assistant Risa McGarvey said.
The facility opened in 2008, and a public encounter with art was always part of its design and purpose, McGarvey said.
Gladstone Community Center
6901 N. Holmes St., Gladstone, Mo.
A rotating selection of local art fills the east side of the Gladstone Community Center’s lobby.
Artists showing there have exposure to the community center’s estimated 1,000 attendees.
Currently, the venue is hosting the Northland Art League’s group show.
The facility opened in 2008, and a public encounter with art was always part of its design and purpose, community center administrative assistant Risa McGarvey said.
Opposite the rotating display of local art is a wall of the community center’s permanent collection.
“Gladstone has always been committed to art,” McGarvey said. The facility opened in 2008, and a public encounter with art was always part of its design and purpose, she said.
Sales inside the space vary, McGarvey said. One of the last artists shown sold five pieces. She estimated the space moves $2,000 to $4,000 worth of art every year.