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The Art of Giving Art

5 tips for the perfect fine art gift

By Paula Wallace, president and founder, Savannah College of Art and Design


Photo courtesy of SCAD

As Savannah weather turns from brisk to downright frigid, chimney smoke dances across the air, and holiday cheer glows through vine-wreathed porticos. This is the season we love the most! It can also be a time of angst: what gifts do I give? How do I know what will make that special someone happy? My answer is always, always, always: Give art. Here are five reasons why. 


  1. Art shows how well you know someone


I recall the words of the great textile artist Anni Albers: “Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as listening to that which wants to be done.” Anni’s description of her creative process also captures how we should choose gifts — especially art — for friends and family. Like a great artist, listen to your subject. Consider their homes and spaces. Note their tastes, loves, likes, passions. Do they dress themselves and their home in bright colors — or muted? Pay attention to the stories they tell. Some say that the greatest gift is attention. Pay close enough attention, and you'll know what to give.


  1. Art can be a great investment


And it doesn’t have to break the bank! Art value grows over time, so feel free to start by shopping small. Think, "Do I like this?" Does it speak to you, and will it speak to the recipient? Whatever work of art you choose, it will accrue value as time goes on, and someday your loved one will own an heirloom to be enjoyed for generations.


Photo courtesy of SCAD

  1. Art helps people rethink their space


New art can inspire the reimagination and revival of a space. There are no rules when it comes to placing new art with existing works — we do this all the time at SCAD! In fact, we’re known for blending mixed-media works with vintage objects and contemporary paintings. Quirky and classical, eclectic and surprising. It works! If you’re still debating, though, consider purchasing a small sculpture or handmade jewelry. Find a ceramic bud vase, and place a sprig of berries or greenery in it. As our experts at Savannah’s shopSCAD will tell you, art is a gift that’s as meaningful as it is versatile. 


  1. Art can be 100% personalized


Nothing could be more appropriate than a portrait of someone’s parents, home, or favorite pet. The key is to find an artist you like and start working with them at least six months in advance. Have a sense of your loved one’s style and taste. Know the artists they like, the color palettes in their homes, the design aesthetics they prefer, and select an artist accordingly. The final product needs to stand alone and speak for itself. 


Photo courtesy of SCAD

  1. Art keeps us young! 


Local galleries and art pop-ups are delightful places to discover emerging artists. At student exhibitions and M.F.A. thesis shows, you’ll discover a vast range of styles and influences and have a chance to support the artists who create them. As president of SCAD, I’m privileged to work with the world’s finest student artists, so I don’t have to go very far to find inspiration! SCAD Art Sales hosts Open Studio nights in Savannah and Atlanta, and I’m not the only one holiday shopping at these events. Look into your community art scene and see what you can find. Young artists will thank you.


Giving art takes thoughtfulness to a higher level, because art is a creation made from someone’s heart and hand. True art provokes thought, and the gift you give will inspire reflection and curiosity. Your effort to select something unique will be rewarded, and the act itself will bring you joy.


Anni Albers also said, “Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness.” This holds true for the giver as well as the receiver. 



Paula Wallace founded SCAD in Savannah, Georgia, in 1978. As president of SCAD, she has led the university’s expansion to locations in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, as well as eLearning. SCAD isthe only university that offers a professional commercial gallery service to the public, SCAD Art Saleswhich is focused exclusively on the work of students, alumni, and faculty, with clients including collectors and companies from Facebook to Netflix.