WALNUT CREEK -- Local artists say they have a secret they're willing to share.

How do you beat the holiday rush this season? Give the gift of art.

And not just any art, but a piece created by artists who could very well be your next-door neighbors, the artists say.

For Lafayette artist Geoff Meredith, giving something original, a work of fine art or craft, is a more sincere expression of thought than just buying something that many people can and probably will buy at a department store.

"It shows an appreciation for the skill of the artist or artisan and is somehow a

more 'honest' gesture than getting something mass-produced on an assembly line, or extruded from a plastic mold," said Meredith. "Giving something one-of-a-kind makes the gift much more individualized and personalized and says something special about the relationship between the donor and the recipient."

Both of the local art galleries he's associated with -- the Lafayette Art Gallery and the Valley Art Gallery in Walnut Creek -- are featuring holiday gift boutiques this time of year, adding many smaller art and craft gift items to their already plentiful display of paintings, ceramics and sculpture, he said.

Many artists say they give art they've created themselves as well as original art by other local artists as a show of support.


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Artful giving isn't just a thoughtful concept for the holidays. Meredith and his wife gave a painting as a wedding present earlier this year to some friends from the East Coast.

"The painting was of a vineyard in Sonoma, because that is where they spent their honeymoon," said Meredith, who paints abstract and representational landscapes. "The gift was especially precious to them because it was unique and because it spoke to our relationship and they will treasure it because it reminds them of us, and of their honeymoon. I think it meant and will continue to signify far more to them than a crystal bowl, or a Cuisinart."

Abstract painter Paula Boas invites those searching for timeless as well as unique gifts to see what local galleries have to offer.

"Valley Art Gallery has a wonderful selection of fine craft and art, created by local artists who are passionate about their work," Boas said. "By gifting one of these unique items, the buyer becomes a patron of the arts. Their purchase supports local artists and the local community, and shares the passion of art with the recipient."

Valley Art Gallery brings back, by popular demand, the miniature 4-by-4-inch paintings the gallery's talented and generous artists have created and donated, she said.

"These one-of-a-kind works of art make very affordable, memorable gifts," Boas said. "They can be hung on the tree, placed on a small easel, or put in a frame."

All the proceeds from the sale of these miniature paintings go to support Valley Art's Gloria Marshall Award, a cash gift awarded each year in support of a deserving school arts program.

For Christmas last year, Barbara Cella gave her relatives a Johns Island, Florida painting. "It's a restaurant painting with my relatives sitting at one of the tables," Cella said.

Cella, who usually shows work at the Moraga Art Gallery, said the gallery has

many great treasures perfect for the holidays. Along with paintings and photographs, there are many small works of art including handcrafted glass jewelry and ornaments, prints, holiday cards, turned-wood wine stoppers, hand painted silk scarves, and ceramic tableware.

A gift of art
Some local galleries with gift ideas are:
  • Art Cottage, 2238 Mt. Diablo St., Concord
  • Orinda Library Gallery, Orinda Way
  • Klein Gallery, 50 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette
  • Lafayette Gallery, 3420 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite A
  • Moraga Art Gallery, 522 Center St.
  • Renditions Art Gallery, 1383 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek
  • Valley Art Gallery, 1661 Botelho Dr., Walnut Creek