Cultivate keeps holiday shopping local with an arts guide

Cultivate’s new Holiday Guide for Local Artists will help keep seasonal spending local by providing a comprehensive guide to West Michigan artists and creatives. Courtesy Cultivate

As the holiday season approaches, shoppers are looking for that perfect, one-of-a-kind gift. Mallory Shotwell, director and founder of Cultivate, hopes to showcase local artists and businesses that can offer just that.

For the first time, Cultivate, a Grand Rapids arts and education nonprofit, is offering a holiday guide for local artists. This inaugural publication will feature local 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 hopes to reach between 250,000 and 375,000 readers. The physical copy will be available at local businesses such as hotels, art markets, travel agencies and interior design firms.

Shotwell said he hopes to recreate that childhood feeling of excitedly flipping through a toy catalog and seeing 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 wonderful. I want this” and fence it, but you’re an adult.”

So far, Shotwell said more than 115 artists have applied (for free) to be featured in the holiday publication. She said “all” types of artists are encouraged to apply. According to the application, the organization accepts everything from fine art to home goods, clothing and bath and body items such as 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 we’ve really noticed is that there are so many different options for where to find art events happening around town,” Shotwell said. “There are a lot of different ways, but one way we hope to connect and support is by providing a single listing where people don’t have to search through five or six different sites.” They have one central location.

With this comprehensive guide, Shotwell and the team at Cultivate hope to keep holiday shopping local and connect shoppers directly with the artists.

She said the guide is for anyone “who wants to support local (arts/businesses) but doesn’t know where to start and maybe feels overwhelmed by the market. This is something you can easily do with a complete guide from the comfort of your home instead of going to Target if you’d like.

“I think really people often don’t know where to start. So (we’re) creating this sense of engagement where people really connect with amazing galleries and boutique shops in the community and share 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 it’s a hosiery shop or fine art or clothing or jewelry, and people can easily sift through and find exactly what 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 list of magazines and local guides the organization will launch in the coming year, including an artist resource publication.

Often, Shotwell said, artists trying to support themselves with their work aren’t sure how to get started or how to handle the business aspects of marketing themselves and their product, managing funding and successfully reaching an audience. Cultivate’s holiday guide, among other initiatives the organization is planning, will help artists and creatives who are small business owners in the area connect with people looking for their products.

“Like any mom and pop store, like any physical store, we (artists) are hardworking, independent business owners,” she said. “Often the arts can be seen as an easy career where we just sit and draw all the time. But there really is a lot of amazing business and a lot of work that goes into it, and (we should) really value that, just like any other small business, whether it’s a plumber or a lawyer in private practice.”

From Shotwell’s point of view, taking the time to appreciate and support local creatives and artists is also important to the economy.

“It’s really (not only) keeping money in our local economy, but it’s keeping money in our local economy creatively economy and keeps that economy and those businesses alive,” she said. “And it has this amazing trickle-down effect where people are not only empowered within their own small businesses or their own homes or the studio that they’re working in, but they’re also inspiring new artists who feel like maybe they don’t I do.”

Cultivate’s first Holiday Local Artist Guide will be curated entirely by the Cultivate team and will be available digitally on November 5th and in print on November 12th.

This story can be found in the Oct. 31 issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal. To get more stories like this delivered to your inbox, subscribe here.

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