The holiday season is in full swing, and this time of year always prompts the question, “What am I going to get everyone?” If the usual suspects are getting tiresome, the central Illinois arts community has a variety of gifts for everyone on your list.

Getting Back to Nature

The Peoria Park District is a good choice for year-round family experiences, but it shines during the holiday season with events and gift opportunities suitable for the entire family.

Luthy Botanical Garden hosts several events this season, including the annual Poinsettia Show, “Enchanted Fairyland.” Brightly colored poinsettias blend with the tropical collection to create a wonderland different from anything else in Peoria. The Conservatory is transformed into a fairyland November 22 through December 29. Hours are from noon to 5 p.m., Sundays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays. Participating in the Candlelight Walks is a great way to enjoy the Poinsettia Show. Walks—under the warm glow of hundreds of candles—include live performances of holiday music and are offered from 7 to 9 p.m., November 22, 23, 29, 30, December 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, and 21.

Jinglin’ Jazz, which takes place from 6:30 to 9 p.m., December 5, in Luthy Botanical Garden, is a musical event geared toward couples or holiday groups. Gather a group of friends or someone special and enjoy hors d’oeuvres, jazzy tunes from the Joe Metzka Trio, and bid on a unique selection of silent auction items. A limited number of tickets are being sold for this over-21 event. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

The Yule Like Peoria Holiday Walk-A-Bout kicks off the day after Thanksgiving—from 5:30 to 8 p.m., November 29. Get into the holiday spirit with the annual downtown event, beginning with the lighting of the lights at the Peoria County Courthouse Plaza. Enjoy entertainment from choirs to magic acts to dancing to refreshments at a variety of businesses from the riverfront to Madison Street.

The Trailhead Nature Store at Forest Park Nature Center hosts the Holiday Shop ‘n’ Stroll from 6 to 8:30 p.m., December 6, 13, and 20. Experience an evening stroll on a forest path lit with luminarias, holiday musicians, hot wassail and homemade goodies, unique educational and nature related items, storytelling, and caroling. Plan to catch your breath and enjoy relaxed holiday shopping. For more information, call 686-3660.

Forest Park Nature Center is also home to the Wildlife Art Show & Sale. Local artists will be displayed and selling their nature artwork from November 29 to December 22. Enjoy Forest Park’s warm stove and hot drinks while you browse wildlife art and Trailhead Gift Shop for gifts.

Peoria POPS Orchestra Holiday Concert-A Holiday Serenade takes place at 7:30 p.m., December 20 and 21, at the Peoria Players Theatre. This is the fifth year for this festive concert that features a patriotic salute. The emcee this year is Jack Schepper and the solo artist is Michael Hurt. Other artists include J. Parker, Jeanette Beardsley, Jane Leathers, and Bruce Coleman. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $8 for children three to 18, and children under three are free.

For more information, call 688-3667, ext. 266.

Guilding the Christmas Lily

The Peoria Art Guild hosts this year’s Crimson Door holiday exhibit from November 22 to January 4. Crimson Door is a more than 50-year tradition. While the current door of the Foster Arts Center isn’t crimson, the Guild’s old building sported a red door. Many people are unaware the original crimson door is displayed every year with a new design.

This year’s Art Unwrapped exhibit is an exhibition of artwork by member artists and an opportunity for those artists to sell their work. In fact, they’ll sell artwork right off the wall, making room for more artwork to be hung. The exhibition features acrylic, oil, watercolor, drawings, pastels, mixed media, prints, and photography.

Additional artwork can be found during this year’s Trunk Show, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., December 14, in the gallery and studios. The following artisans are offering their work just in time for the holidays: Rich Ryan, glass; Randy Carlson, ceramics; Lisa Nelson, fiber; Mary Ruth Ginn, fiber; Ann Conver, photography; Judy Weiss, pastel drawings; Judith Shanahan, pencil drawings; Wes Franz, 2D and ceramics; William Butler, printmaking; Beverly Fagan, jewelry; and Signature Designs by Dani, fiber. Admission is free.

In addition, kids can participate in make-and-take art projects for a small fee while adults shop.

For more information, call 637-7334.

Art—“Check” It Out

If you’re still not sure what to get—or just want to pamper yourself during this hectic time—Art Checks are the way to go, suggested ArtsPartners Executive Director Terri Smith. “In these times of ‘stress management,’ the creative arts are a natural way of reducing stress, attaining balance in our lives, and establishing a state of calm and peace within our being. Whether or not you think you’re good at it, whether you believe you need to practice, or whether you enjoy attending art events, the fact remains the act of creativity is in itself a healer—a balm for the hectic pace of our lives, a spiritual contact for our soul,” she said.

Art Checks gift certificates allow the recipient of this creative gift to attend a live performance, stroll through an art exhibit, purchase a work of art, or take a dance class they always wanted to take, Smith said. “Making time for creative leisure is a gift we should all give ourselves and those around us. Arts Checks gift certificates are a perfectly unique gift idea for this holiday season. Not sure what the person you’re buying for would be interested in? With Art Checks, the recipient of your gift could choose from a multitude of choices for redemption.”

Almost all of the local arts organizations participate in Arts Checks. “Would you like to purchase dance classes for special someone? Peoria ballet and the Peoria Park District will redeem Art Checks for classes they conduct. How about a performance gift? This season your recipient could redeem their Art Checks to attend performances at Eastlight Theatre, Illinois Ballet, Apollo Professional Theatre, Peoria Civic Center YouTheatre, Contemporary Art Center, Opera Illinois, Peoria International Film Group, Corn Stock, Peoria Players, ICC Theatre and Subscription Series, Tazwood Community Theatre, and Eureka College Theatre. Purchase a gift from the Peoria Art Guild’s gift shop or purchase the Reader’s Library for bookplate recognition at Peoria Public Library.

The arts of painting, sculpting, acting, dance, and music all require stepping outside of ourselves—out of our habitual patterns or thoughts—to let our creativity and inner self express itself, Smith said. “These arts can be very healing and meditative. As we focus on the task at hand, the mind chatter quiets itself, and a certain joy comes over us as we give ourselves to the dance, the creativity of art, or the pleasure of viewing arts events.”

She said creativity lies inside each of us. “While some have grown up believing they aren’t creative, it’s an innate talent; there isn’t one person alive who isn’t creative. We create our life every day as we go along—we make choices, we see various aspects of our reality—and all this is creative. So in our lives, the attitude, focus, concentration, or presence of being one learns in art can be carried over to our daily experience. The focus, attention, devotion, the love—all of these are part and parcel of creativity, of creating our daily reality, right here and right now, using the tools we have around us.”

For a full calendar of this holiday season’s arts events, visit www.artspartners.net. AA!