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6 Ways to Add Art to Your Life Without Breaking the Bank

6 Ways to Add Art to Your Life Without Breaking the Bank

Think you can't afford to fill your life with art?

Actually, it's less expensive than you might think to surround yourself with the work of great artists and designers. Here are 6 ways to integrate art into your home and daily living.

1. Buy an annual membership to your local art museum.

Typically in the $60-$75 dollar range, membership to an art museum is one of the best deals around if you want to see great art regularly and attend exhibitions and special events. 

Art museums have always been my go-to places for creative inspiration and learning. When I lived in the Bay Area I joined the San Jose Museum of Art, with a reciprocal membership to the DeYoung in San Francisco. During my time in Buenos Aires, it was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Here in Tucson, I just renewed my dual/family membership at the Tucson Museum of Art. For just $75/year, my fiance and I can visit as many times as we want - enjoying the latest exhibition, the permanent collection, docent lectures and educational programs (currently virtual due to COVID-19), and the sculpture garden. We often meet friends to catch the latest exhibition, and cap off the visit at Cafe a la C'Art next door, which has amazing homemade cakes and pastries.

We found that art museums in most cities have been open throughout the pandemic - just with limited capacity and a requirement of a timed ticket.

2. Buy original art from local or regional artists.

A wise old artist friend once told me, "always buy original art; it may take longer to fill your walls but real art is worth waiting for."

As I look at one of his paintings while I write this blog, I'm grateful Joe Montell  instilled this attitude in me. Sure you can go to Home Goods or Target and buy decent-looking, mass produced "art" for your walls. But there is nothing like having an original in your home or work space. And contrary to what you might think, it's not always expensive to buy the real thing. 

While Airstreaming for a long weekend in Anza Borrego Stage Park in California last fall, we visited the Borrego Art Institute, which was having an abstracts exhibition that featured five artists. I bought the demure Kat Green piece below, matted and framed, for $125. It was #12 in a series and I loved it because it made me feel joyful. In addition to becoming part of our personal collection, it's also a lovely reminder of my first visit to Borrego Springs.

Kat Green Abstract #12 purchased at Borrego Art Institute

3. If you can't afford the original, ask about limited edition prints.

Unlike mass produced prints found at major retail stores, limited edition prints are printed by the artist him or herself, in a finite quantity. That quantity could be several hundred, less than a hundred, or even less that 20. It's the artist's choice, and the smaller the edition, the more valuable they can become.

Take a look at the featured image for this blog - a limited edition print of Alumapalooza Icons by watercolorist and Airstreamer Don Lake. There are a few things to look for when you purchase a limited edition print.

First, make sure the artist has signed it, which Don has. Sometimes you will find this on the back of the artwork.

Second, look for the number of the print in the series. For example, the print may show 10/60, would mean the print is the 10th print in a limited edition of 60. Typically, the lower the number in the edition, the more valuable it 60 is a pretty good number for a limited edition. Not too small, but not too large. 

In the case of this print, you'll notice "A/P" instead of numbers. That stands for Artist's Print. This term is used for the first several prints that an artist makes of his or her original work. It's also sometimes referred to as P/P - Printer's Proof. Both are early versions of the print and considered rare, so they are more likely to hold or increase in value. Often the artist keeps one or more of these him or herself, for their personal collection. In this case, Don gifted the A/P to my fiance, Rich Luhr, so now it's in our personal collection.

4. Collect interesting pieces that serve daily functions.

Why should form have to follow function? If you want to bring more art and innovation into your life, put "form" first. Especially when it comes to functional items.

For example, if you need a salad bowl, you can buy a plain white porcelain one. Or you can buy one that is in and of itself, art. Like this stainless steel bowl purchased in the 1970s by my finace's mom:

We use this bowl almost daily, and the handle on it is not only unique but super practical.

Other examples of how I weave art into daily living: Small, hand painted bowls I purchased at the Christmas Markets in Germany and use for things like mixed nuts, olive pits, or pink salt. And a one of a kind set of wooden salad spoon/fork that are each hand carved from a single piece of wood.

Look also to purchase common items that have been adorned with art themselves. Like this charcuterie / serving board featuring Bambi, Summer at Huntington Beach by Airstreamer and artist Michael Lambert.

Charcuterie / serving tray featuring an artwork with an Airstream Bambi trailer - Bambi, Summer at Huntington Beach

5. See the art in things that have a past, or have a story.

As a child I admired the 1960s blue glass jars that were in my grandma Judy's warm and welcoming kitchen. After she died, I asked my mom if I could have them and they have been the centerpiece of my kitchen and dining room design in my last several homes. Beautiful and retro, they hold flour, sugar, Clif bars, and Italian coffee.

Blue glass jars

I love these jars because they add a pop of color and retro chic as well as hold stuff that we use at least several times a week. Plus they are nice homage to my grandma.

Make a habit of browsing thrift shops and antique stores and you'll notice all kinds of functional items that are more interesting than their modern counter parts. From side tables to tea sets to serving trays and organizational thingamabobs, the pre-owned items you purchase are often the ones that will garner the most interest from friends and guests.

6. Never pass up the chance to visit the art museum gift shop.

I've discovered more interesting jewelry, prints, and gifts in museum stores than just about anywhere else.

For instance, a few years ago, I snagged three small prints by Tucson artist Jay Thauson, for $30 each. One of them has colorful little trailers that look sort of like Airstreams.

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I bought a beautiful tote/handbag based on Molly Hatch's porcelain plate exhibit at The High in Atlanta for $35. And, just last week I found a pair of beautiful silver and ruby (gem quality resin) earrings for my sister and law's 60th birthday for $90. Bonus: If you are a member of the museum you get a discount.
So join your local art museum and be inspired by what you see. Look for opportunities to buy local and regional art. And think beyond Amazon when you need something practical. Consider how the artist makes you feel through his or her work, and allow art to lead function. If you do these simple things I promise you will create a world around you that's filled with art - and have plenty left in your pocketbook. 

 

 

 

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