ShopColumbia, Columbia College's non-profit student art boutique on the first floor of 623 S. Wabash Ave., hosted its first Holiday Art Market to kick off the shopping season and help student artists and shoppers.
Holiday songs set the mood at Columbia College last week while enthusiastic employees tidied up displays, volunteers decorated packages and customers browsed through hand-crafted art pieces.
The store expanded its walls and used the Quincy Wong Center for Artistic Expression to sell a variety of holiday-themed pieces by both students and alumni for the three-day event Dec. 1-3. The planners were able to expand shopping hours on the final day because another event was canceled.
“It's a gallery space, but at the same time, you can find things you won't get anywhere else,” Sam Grimes, a student employee at ShopColumbia, said.
Grimes said the store, along with the market, is an opportunity to give money back to hard-working student artists.
Paintings, photographs, mixed-media works and screen prints displayed on the walls demanded attention immediately upon entering the store, which was arranged more like a gallery space. The images, several being holiday-themed, led shoppers into the Quincy Wong Center where holiday spirit filled the air.
“It's really cool to see new work and get people in the store,” Grimes said.
It was a large mixed-media painting that brought Justin Tvedt, a 29-year-old continuing film student, into the Holiday Art Market. The piece by Shellie Lew is called “Big Dog” and was going for $150.
Tvedt said he enjoys looking at student work, so he frequently visits ShopColumbia to browse the pieces on sale. He said he finds the work reasonably priced, but he has not yet purchased anything from the boutique because he can't afford it on his budget.
The Holiday Art Market appealed to Tvedt because of the uniqueness and intimacy of hand-made gifts, he said.
“It's limited, and there is only one like it,” Tvedt said. “There is more personality, so it is really connected to the receiver.”
Over-sized ornaments and hand-crafted stars hung from the ceiling to accent the sales items. Most of the merchandise was traditional gift items including jewelry, CDs, posters, candles, purses and tote bags, clothing, stationery and winter accessories. Two tables highlighted gift ideas that cost less than $20.
Lindsey Dietzler, ShopColumbia employee and Columbia College alumna, said the store was busier than usual, “hopefully because of all the promoting [we did].”
“We've done in the last four days what we usually do in a month,” Dietzler said. Grimes and Dietzler said the most popular items were jewelry, cards and apparel.
Items in demand that the boutique does not usually carry included men's clothing and accessories, daily planners and Columbia College merchandise, Dietzler said.
A refreshment table was set up in the far corner of the store offering free hot chocolate, bagels, cookies, pastries and mints to hungry students.
Free raffle tickets were handed out for daily prizes, and grand-prize winners received autographed sports memorabilia from the Chicago Black Hawks and the Chicago Bears. Smaller, daily prizes included various event tickets and gift cards.
The Columbia College Fashion Association, a student organization, was wrapping gifts to collect donations for charity. ShopColumbia held a contest prior to the Holiday Art Market for student organizations to show off their unique wrapping ideas. The winning organization was chosen to fundraise for their group.
Ami Jesernig, a sophomore fashion retail marketing student and member of CCFA, said the organization wanted to be part of the Holiday Art Fair because it tries to get involved with as many Columbia events as possible and wanted to raise donations for charity.
The CCFA wrapped gifts with a traditional Japanese design called Furoshiki, which utilizes fabric scraps instead of paper. Jesernig said the use of cloth related the packaging to the CCFA by “getting the word out about [the organization] and introducing something to students.”
Dietzler said the most-needed goal for future ShopColumbia sales events is to draw in even more shoppers.
Better word-of-mouth on campus by professors could have increased traffic, Grimes said. “If only I could tap into other people's thoughts and let them know about [the sale].”
Ryan Kramarz, a senior audio for visual media student, said he had not heard of the Holiday Art Market before entering Tuesday after class, and he would like to see an increased circulation of event information around the school.
Since opening its doors in fall 2008, ShopColumbia has earned more than $50,000 for students selling their work. The Holiday Art Market brought in $4,200, Dietzler said. The boutique will stay open until Dec. 23 for students who need to finish last-minute shopping.