Looking for a way to give a unique gift this holiday season that celebrates creativity and supports local business? I’ve got a few ideas for you. 

Hire your favorite photographer 

My mother’s home is flush with rare books, heirlooms and generations worth of family art and yet its a photograph that hangs over her mantle unfailingly draw the most interest. It’s a photo of her farm taken from a passing plane. Now, obviously, Google Earth has made aerial photography a little less special but that doesn’t change the importance of the general idea. Having the things you loved captured from a different perspective can be extremely valuable. This year I plan to hire some of my favorite local photographers to take nontraditional family portraits. My wife and I have spent time imagining how each particular photographer friend of ours might be best utilized, in which environments dear to us their work would be most impactful and how we might dress. Yes, this could amount to a cheesy holiday card but let a good photographer work and they’ll make it worth your while. 

Commission your favorite local artist 

You don’t have to ask them to paint the Mona Lisa and sure some of them may be occupied with their own projects but odds are they’ll jump at the chance to whip up some characterizations, interpret your pet, or even create a collage out of photographs out of a year’s worth of your photographs. Don’t be afraid to ask for their rates and see if you can work something out. 

Give the gift of knowledge and experience

If I’ve learned anything this year as the father of a five-year-old its that giving someone an opportunity to learn something can mean so much more than any one material thing. This might not be news to you but I  say this as a recovering collector. This year, my daughter took lessons at Troy Dance Factory, took yoga at Root3d and currently is deciding whether to keep up gymnastics lessons or focus her efforts on soccer. All of this has led me to consider taking a few classes at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, Arlene’s Artist Materials and a Different Drummer’s Kitchen

Support local authors 

The Capital Region has a wealth of published authors and amazing book shops. So skip Amazon and the latest bestseller and head over to The Open Door Book Store, Market Block Books, The Book House, Northshire Bookstore, Dove & Hudson, The Spotty Dog etc. and stock up on works by local authors. See our October issue for our guide to local authors and publishing houses. 

Open up doors with subscriptions and memberships 

For her third birthday, my daughter received a heap load of toys from my wife and I and a slew of memberships from family members. Guess which she actually used? Yeah, the latter. We visited MiSci, VIA Aquarium and CMost constantly. It seemed almost magical that these little membership cards could bring her so much joy. Later I realized that I as an adult could also access these magical powers. I could become a member at one of the area’s amazing museums or galleries, and thereby giving myself the excuse I need to visit them more often. Or I could subscribe to a local theater and have easy access to the brilliant work being done by so many local theater companies. 

Give the gift of local music 

Want to turn the music lovers in your life on to the work of local performers? There is the most obvious route–visit a record store like Last Vestige, The River Street Beat Shop, Spike’s Record Rack or go online and buy from local labels like Fuzz, Magnetic Eye, Five Kill, Rose Record Label or Cacophone

Chances are though that some of your favorite local musicians may not have physical media to sell or be involved with a record label. They are likely, however, to have a Bandcamp page. And you can always buy one of their albums for a reasonable price and gift it over email.