Front Row Center Newsletter from the Greater Columbus Arts Counsil


By Krystal Swanson

Across the country a trend is arising that has shoppers forgoing the hustle and bustle of the mall and all of its material goods and turning instead to experiential gifts.  In Columbus, many arts organizations are capitalizing on this new trend by developing new ways to give experiences in the arts as gifts.

On average, people are more satisfied with experiences rather than material goods. Research by Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, has shown that over time, people have an increased satisfaction with their experiential purchases and have decreased satisfaction with their material purchases. An American Express Life Twist study revealed that 70 percent of people feel that engaging in a new experience makes them feel more fulfilled.

Cooking classes, yoga workshops and food tours are all on the rise for holiday giving, but research suggests a compelling reason to give a more art-centric experience. Engaging in creative activities, either as a “hands-on” experience, or as an observer, has proven to enhance moods and emotions and reduce stress and depression, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Another study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology linked dancing and movement training with life satisfaction. The study showed that adults who engaged in dance classes felt more self-confidence, pride, accomplishment, group cohesiveness and an overall sense of improved life satisfaction. Music, like visual art, has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Listening to music has also shown to reduce pain, improve immune functioning and aid memory retention, according to an article by Huffington Post.

Finding Hands-On Experiences with Workshops & Classes

Ceramics at the Cultural Arts Center.

Ceramics at the Cultural Arts Center

A hands-on experience is not limited to the experienced. Several area arts organizations offer one-time workshops that are designed for people with little to no expertise in making art. They create a safe space for children and adults to express themselves creatively, learn a new skill and have fun without critique.

Glass Axis, located in the Franklinton Arts District, offers an array of classes specifically working with glass, including glass blowing, stained glass and mosaics.

“Most of our class participants are a first experience level and that is what we see the most with gift certificates,” says Rex Brown, the executive director at Glass Axis.

Brown says he has noticed an increase in gift certificate sales during the holiday season, especially due to the ease and convenience of ordering and using them online. Glass Axis gift certificates, can be redeemed for classes or gallery purchases on their website or in their gallery.

The Columbus Idea Foundry hosts a variety of classes in blacksmithing, 3D printing, sewing, functional arts, fine arts, jewelry, glass working, metal work, laser cutting and woodworking, as well as software and programming. Their workshops are geared to a wide range of skill levels.

The Columbus Idea Foundry also has Maker Nights, one night experiences that include crafting activities to take home and either dinner, a brewery tour or a curator’s tour. Maker Date Nights with Strongwater include dinner at Strongwater Food & Spirits, with priority service and seating. Maker Nights with Land-Grant Brewing Company end the night with some local brew and a tour of their brewing facility. The Vanderelli experience includes one make-and-take activity and a curator’s tour of the Vandereilli Room, voted in the top 10 art galleries in Columbus, along with wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Devon Palmer, teaches woodturning classes at the foundry and has been involved with Maker Nights as an instructor.

“Maker Nights is a great way to sample a craft or a technology, said Palmer. “Often times, we’ll have several projects on a Maker Night that touch on different topics that let participants experience multiple things.”

Given the wide range of experiences the Columbus Idea Foundry offers, they have made purchasing and gift giving as simple as possible.  Gift certificates are sold at CIF and online and can be used toward classes, membership dues, tool use fees and for most Maker Nights.

Gift certificates for one-time workshops are flexible gift options in that they allow the recipient to sample a new arts experience with a limited time commitment that fits easily into their schedule. Classes, however, are also a popular option as the recipient moves from sampling a class to a more invested interest.

While many arts organizations offer a range of classes, the Cultural Arts Center has made giving a class as a gift particularly easy by offering gift cards that can be purchased for any amount and are good for classes and workshops. The center offers seven- to eight- week long classes in ceramics, sculpting, bronze casting, fiber arts, book and paper arts, jewelry and enameling.

Performing arts have also stepped up their gift-giving game.  At the Columbus Dance Centre, they offer gift certificates (sold online and redeemed by the recipient by phone) which can be applied toward a variety of dance classes for both children and adults. Columbus Children’s Theatre offers a more flexible drop-in class option for kids and adults. A dance card can be purchased on CCT’s website, which allows the purchaser to pay for five drop-in classes and then the recipient can pick those classes that best fit into their schedule.

Giving “Tickets” to a Show is Now Easier Than Ever

Not all experiences are hands on, and many performance-focused organizations have come up with solutions that allow customers to give the gift of seeing a show without limiting the recipient to a particular night or performance.  Shadowbox Live offers gift certificates that can be purchased online and used on tickets, food and boutique purchases.

During the holiday season, Shadowbox has seen an increase in gift card sales due to holiday shopping.

Amy Lay, the art director who is also in charge of the Shadowbox Live Boutique says, “We sell five times as many [gift cards] during the holiday season as the rest of the year.  Starting Black Friday, I get at least six requests a day.”

Shadowbox Live has also noticed customers returning year after year for their annual shows, Holiday Hoopla, Scrooge and the Holiday Lunchbox, as part of family holiday traditions.

CATCO, another local Columbus theater, has also seen an increase in sales during the holidays. So much so, it has repackaged its remaining shows into a new theater subscription in order to make it easier to give theater performances as a gift.

This year they have three different gift subscription options: CATCO, CATCO is Kids and FlexTix. Each FlexTix is good for one adult admission to a CATCO show or one adult plus two children to a CATCO is Kids performance. FlexTix allows the recipient to choose shows and show times that best fit into their busy schedule. This subscription also allows them to choose the best seat in the house, as they get the best available seats when redeeming their coupons.

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra offers gift certificates that are good for up to two years after purchase and are good for all ProMusica performances. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Columbus Jazz Orchestra accept CAPA gift certificates for tickets to musical performances.

The Columbus Museum of Art. Photography by Greg Miller.

The Columbus Museum of Art. Photography by Greg Miller

Memberships Remain a Classic Arts Gift

Memberships have long been a popular gift option and remain so. Not only do they offer admission to a particular venue but  they often include discounts on merchandise, food and classes.

COSI, with its new planetarium, offers e-gift cards that allow customers to give a membership, or a one-time pass to their recipient. Gift cards can be used for admission, snacks and meals at its Atomic Café or for souvenirs from COSI’s gift shop.

The newly renovated Columbus Museum of Art, and the Wexner Center for the Arts have gift memberships available for purchase online and sent directly to the gift recipients. Columbus Museum of Art memberships include a year of free admission to the permanent collection, discounted tickets for feature exhibitions and discounts in the new museum store and Schokko Art, located in the new wing of the museum.  A membership to the Wexner Center for the Arts includes free gallery admission discounts at the Wexner store and café as well as on feature exhibitions and performances.

The Franklin Park Conservatory offers gift memberships that include discounted registration on gardening, cooking, art and wellness classes housed in Wells Barn, a 200-year old barn recently relocated from Richland County and renovated for the park.

Research continues to show that these experiential gifts have a deeper, more positive impact than the latest gadget. Columbus arts organizations have met this gift giving trend head on and there are now more options than ever for patrons to gift arts experiences.

Krystal Swanson is the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s current marketing intern and is graduating this month with a degree in strategic communication and fashion and retail at The Ohio State University. 

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