Local artists, creators talk supporting local during the holidays

·3 min read

With the holiday season in full swing comes the pressure to find the perfect gift, or sometimes just a quick one – often leading to a trip to Target or a few clicks on Amazon.

Taking the time to do a quick search for local artists or creators could mean more presents under the tree for a fellow community member, or an easier time paying bills that month.

For Jamin Ellison, a Fort Smith multimedia artist, being an artist also means working part-time in construction to live out his passion.

Jamin Ellison, a local artist, with one of his recent pieces at Fort Smith Coffee Co. in November. Ellison decided to pursue art as a career after years of it being a hobby and selling pieces at music festivals.
Jamin Ellison, a local artist, with one of his recent pieces at Fort Smith Coffee Co. in November. Ellison decided to pursue art as a career after years of it being a hobby and selling pieces at music festivals.

When people come to him to purchase a print or commission a piece, it is money that makes his dreams and day-to-day life possible.

“Hopefully that's where I will be able to pay for my holidays,” Ellison said about commissions.

Ellison thinks one of the biggest things that can deter people from buying art is the price.

Many artists, like Ellison are willing to work with buyers and many have prints available as a lower-cost option as well.

Cat Sparks Oostdijk, a Spiro, Oklahoma, based photographer who works in the region, echoed Ellison’s sentiments on the importance of buying prints and other items from artists.

“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re appreciated and they’re going to spread your work,” Oostdijk said.

For Ellison, there is nothing like seeing someone share a picture of their home and seeing multiple prints of his art hanging on the walls.

“Buying prints isn’t just good because the artist got to sell a small piece, it also helps with advertising,” Ellison said.

Lorrie Staggs, who has been an artist for around 40 years, recently opened Hidden Talent Fine Art Gallery and Restoration with two other local artists.

Hidden Talent Fine Art Gallery and Restoration is located at 14th North 3rd St., Suites D & C in Fort Smith.
Hidden Talent Fine Art Gallery and Restoration is located at 14th North 3rd St., Suites D & C in Fort Smith.

Staggs said one of the hardest parts of being an artist is getting their name out there.

“That’s what we’re here for, to promote them and lift them up and be exposed to the community,” Staggs said.

While it may not be as easy as one-click ordering on Amazon, most creators are on social media or have some type of website, Oostdijk said. By taking the time to look up the name of a photographer whose work you admire and might want in your home, you are helping them beat an algorithm that often works against them.

“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re appreciated and that they’re going to spread your work to other people with your work if they’re gifting prints or something,” Oostdijk said. “That’s a really wonderful feeling. It’s really hard as a small business to keep your head above the water sometimes.”

From wedding albums to hand-painted pieces, the gifts are also more personal, Staggs said.

From gift cards for their services to customized albums or prints, photographers have a lot to offer during the holiday season, Cat Sparks Oostdijk said. Oostdjik is based in Spiro owns Cat Sparks Photography.
From gift cards for their services to customized albums or prints, photographers have a lot to offer during the holiday season, Cat Sparks Oostdijk said. Oostdjik is based in Spiro owns Cat Sparks Photography.

“They put their heart and soul in the paintings and a lot of people don’t realize that,” Staggs said.

“It’s the most flattering thing ever,” Ellison said. “I oftentimes cry whenever someone is buying one of my pieces.”

Abbi Ross is the business and features reporter at the Southwest Times Record. She can be reached at aross@swtimes or on Twitter at @__AbbiRoss

This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Local artists, creators talk supporting local during the holidays

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