Museum gift stores offer great holiday buying

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
The Arab American National Museum has a range of great Middle Eastern cookbooks.

Few things are more pleasurable than finding just the right gift for that person on your list. But when you benefit a worthy nonprofit by gift-shopping at a museum store, you really hit the holiday trifecta.

From the Detroit Institute of Arts to the Arab American National Museum, the region’s museum stores are just waiting to charm you. (All stores in this piece, by the way, are “free” — that is, you don’t need to pay admission to shop.)

At the DIA, curious kids might be intrigued by a new spin on the old paint-by-number — “Paint By Sticker: Masterpieces,” a boxed game ($14.95) that lets you re-create 12 iconic artworks, mosaic-like, one small sticker at a time.

The Detroit Institute of Arts has an impressive collection of blank cards, like these celebrating Andy Warhol.

“The coloring book wave is over,” said Eric Huck, DIA director of retail operations. “ This takes it up another level. It’s cool, educational and challenging.”

Alternately, what little girl on your list wouldn’t be thrilled with a small statue, about 8 inches tall, of one of Edgar Degas’ young ballerinas ($55)?

Switching to a more practical concern, in need of a hostess gift for an upcoming dinner?

The DIA has a number of charming Christmas tree ornaments — always appreciated — that range from a sparkly gold Crayola crayon to a tiny artist’s palette with paint and brush (both $12.95 apiece).

(Planning on attending the DIA’s superb special exhibition on Claude Monet and Frederic Church, up through Jan 15? That’s also got a marvelous gift store, though getting in involves buying a ticket to the show.)

If the DIA ornaments don’t float your boat, the wacky gourd ornaments at the University of Michigan Museum of Art just might. A cute-as-pie little wood-colored raccoon ($18) would be a handsome addition to any tree.

A dog “gourd ornament” can be found at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

UMMA’s gift store may not be the biggest hereabouts, but its selections — like hand-printed ties with imagery drawn from the Japanese classic, “Great Wave at Kanawaga” ($36), as well as other artworks — are hard to beat.

So too are the “Chatty Feet” socks that have colorful, cartoonish fun with artists from Frida Kahlo to Pablo Picasso ($12 a pair).

Also likely to charm are the Penguin “mini-plates” ($18 apiece) adorned by, as you might guess, by cheerful little penguins.

You can almost hear Nettie Tiso, UMMA museum store and visitor experience manager, laugh in her email message: “Tiny plates are so popular at the UMMA Store!” One look, and you’ll see why.

Tote bags proclaim “Say Nice Things About Detroit” at the Detroit Historical Museum.

However, if getting your Detroit bonafides right out there is important, you won’t do any better than at the Detroit Historical Museum gift store.

You can choose from a range of great Detroit tote bags, including a black “Say Nice Things About Detroit” number ($25), or one of the good-looking “Robin Ruth: Be Noticed” bags all pushing the city’s name in striking designs ($20-$25).

If you’ve never gotten over shopping at the old J.L. Hudson’s downtown, consider picking up a handsome reproduction of Jim Williams’ painting, “Hudson’s — The ‘Real’ Christmas Store” ($26), with the old store caught in a light snow.

It’d look grand in a gold frame, to be brought out along with the ornaments every December.

On the other hand, if you’ve got an artistic intellectual to buy for, head straight for the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, whose excellent book collection ranges both locally and internationally.

A “Punk House” tote bag is available at MOCAD.

Its Detroit offerings include Julie Reyes Taubman’s iconic photo study, “Detroit: 138 Square Miles” ($65), as well as the “Stupor” collector’s edition ($14.95), “a treasury of true stories” overheard and recorded by local zine-meister Steve Hughes.

Alternately, if your coffee table needs a little class, consider a copy of Dennis Alan Nawrocki’s essay and picture book, “Robert Sestok: Selected Art Works 2004-2014” ($35).

This good-looking paperback examines the master steelsmith whose giant, sharp-edged sculptures enliven buildings all over downtown as well as City Sculpture Park (at Alexandrine and the John Lodge Service Drive North in Midtown).

But after all that exhausting shopping, you may just be in the mood for some great ethnic food.

The Arab American National Museum has a range of great Middle Eastern cookbooks.

Dearborn’s Arab American National Museum has a range of excellent cookbooks to choose from, among them “Alice’s Kitchen” ($20), Linda Dalal Sawaya’s affectionate tribute to traditional Lebanese cuisine.

Even better? Everything at AANM’s store is 15-percent off through Dec. 31. Go nuts.

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy