By Laura Jackson Roberts
Shopping local is a big deal in Wheeling. We take pride in our entrepreneurs and artisans, and for the next six weeks, Oglebay Institute is offering a chance to support them with the Holiday Art Show and Sale, sponsored by United Bank. Until December 31, both the Stifel Fine Arts Center and the Schrader Environmental Education Center will host this unique holiday event for those looking for an alternative to traditional retail shopping.
I admit that I was under the impression the show would feature mainly wreaths, cookie-scented candles, and stockings shaped like rubenesque reindeer. When I visited opening night at both the Stifel and Schrader Centers, I was instead surprised to see a variety of high-quality arts and crafts
including jewelry, paintings, photography, ceramics, and food. You will indeed find beautiful Christmas pieces, but most tables showcase the kind of crafts you might see at the Oglebay Institute Artists’ and Gourmet Market at Oglebayfest, and I recognized several of the artisans’ work from the fall festival. I also recognized the unmistakable baked goods of Whisk by Avenue Eats, who catered both events and provided me with me yet another opportunity to indulge myself at an OI event.
At Stifel I got into immediate trouble at Andrea Cowan’s table, where I was
joyfully overwhelmed by the variety of scarves and warm headbands in every color. My blogging responsibilities played second fiddle to a snatching up a beautifully knit pink headband before the crowds arrived. DW & Co. Designs crafts bracelets with Greek and Italian leathers, and I was happy to recognize Sketches by Anne (Foreman); she does pet portraits and recently painted my German Shepherd. She offers both prints and note cards.
Sue Smith’s beautiful bird paintings looked quite at home at the Schrader Center next to Lippencott Alpaca’s woolly display (alpaca long johns, anyone?), and I found it difficult to choose between Family Roots Farm’s
maple syrup and the ramp dressing by Appalachian Mountain Specialty Foods. So I didn’t. I bought both.
Dozens of artisans are participating this year. “Different artists and merchandise are featured at each location,” Oglebay Institute Director of Marketing Misty Klug said. “The selection is fantastic. The atmosphere is relaxed and festive, and holiday shopping dollars spent at the show stay in our local economy. Loyal attendees come ready to buy each year, knowing they can find one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on their list. The ‘Buy Local’ concept is expanding to more than just meats and produce. People seem eager to support this
philosophy in other aspects of their shopping, which is certainly good news for our local artisans.”
Stifel Director Rick Morgan informed me that the event is juried this year. “The idea was to try to keep it so that we didn’t have a similar product. We have a little bit more variety in the vendors this year.” He also mentioned that out-of-towners staying at Oglebay will enjoy the convenience of the Schrader Center’s shopping experience without having to leave the park.
November 28 is Small Business Saturday, a day devoted to supporting your community by shopping here in town. Small business owners are the ones who greet you at the door, and help you find what we’re looking for. They’re the ones who wrap your gifts and tell you to enjoy your day. You see them in the grocery store, and in church, and in the pickup line at
school. I love our town, because these people recognize my face and ask me about my kids. Small businesses open early and close late, and do it again the next day, because Wheeling is home, and they want it to thrive.
Some of us go crazy for Christmas, while others are a bit reserved about the commercialization of the holidays. I think there’s a fine line between finding our holiday spirit and trampling it with retail madness. For me, Christmas is a time to reflect upon my family and our traditions, and as a sixth-generation Wheeling resident, it means so much to me to participate in a true local experience, where shoppers treat each other with kindness. These artists add such life to our culture here, and I’m so happy to support them as they do me, and each other.
We’re all in this together, Wheeling. ‘Tis the season.
On Small Business Saturday, November 28, shoppers can visit the Holiday Art Show and Sale from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Stifel Fine Arts Center, 1330 National Road, and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. at the Schrader Environmental Education Center in Oglebay Resort. The Oglebay Institute Holiday Art Show & Sale continues through December 31, 2015. Admission is free.