Singular Sensations

Instead of spending your hard-earned money on some assembly-line gift made by hungry children in a third-world sweatshop, how about buying a one-of-a-kind piece of original art this year? From galleries and museums to arty gift shops and artist studios, you'll find fewer crowds, a lower guilt factor and a much pleasanter atmosphere when shopping for art and arty gee-gaws. Here are some ideas for where to go and what to look for.

Museum gift shops offer unique gifts at affordable prices and shopping in at a less frenetic pace. For those who have more than enough stuff, a museum membership makes a great gift because it supports the museum and gives the recipient special privileges, discounts at museum shops, and invitations to special events throughout the year. Keep in mind that memberships are often reciprocal, so you can join one and visit them all.

Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive N.E., St. Pete (727-896-2667). $375.00 will getcha a spectacular Buccellati ornament (preeminent creators of objects with precious stones). Artzi umbrellas ($14.95) make a splashy statement. Choose from Monet, Renoir, or Van Gogh "ish" images. Arty postcards can be had for less Than $1 each. Memberships range from $20 for students up to $5,000 for benefactors.

Salvador Dali Museum of Art, 1000 Third St. S., St. Petersburg (727-823-3767). Visit the museum or shop online at www.salvadordalimuseum.org. Score an Italian glass clock ($180) or an elegant silk scarf avec Dali-style paintings like Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory ($50). Or go more casual (and cheaper) with a Dali signature T-shirt ($15). Memberships range from $25 for students and seniors to $2,500 for corporate packages.

Gulf Coast Museum of Art, 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo (727-518-6833). Attend The Gift of Art on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 7 to 10 p.m. Art lovers, take this opportunity to schmooze with some of your fave local or Florida artists, including Leslie Neumann, Susan Gott, David McKirdy, Rocky Bridges and Denis Gaston. Original artworks will sell for $10 to $250. Music, food and drinks are also featured. Museum members free; $5 for nonmembers. Memberships cost $40 to $1,000.

Tampa Museum of Art, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa (813-274-8130). The museum's annual Holiday Shopping Event on Dec. 5 from noon to 8 p.m. offers traffic sign chairs by designer Boris Bally ($1,000); one-of-a-kind jigsaw puzzle designed by painter from Prague ($95-175); hammered handmade sterling silver jewelry ($45-100); and assorted art books, including Art Cuba: The New Generation edited by Holly Block ($49.50). Event includes hors d'oeuvres and free gift wrapping. Museum members get 20 percent off only on this day; nonmembers 10 percent off. Memberships range from $20 for students to $1,000 and above.

University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Cam 101, Tampa (813-974-4133). Unique gifts include painted Mexican turtles ($2); postcards and cards ($1.50); British artist Lucy Orta's modular "Survival Gear" packs ($17 to $85) with series of smaller connected bags. Memberships range from $25 for students, seniors and alumni to $1,500 for Director's Circle.

Graphicstudio, 3702 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 100, Tampa (813-974-3503). The Graphicstudio Benefit Sale takes place Friday, Nov. 30, 7-10 p.m. Features 25 percent to 60 percent discounts on all works on paper and sculpture by artists including Lesley Dill, George Baselitz and James Rosenquist. Sale prices start at $400. Graphicstudio doesn't have memberships, but it does offer a limited subscription program. Plunk down $6,500 for initial subscription fee, plus a mere $190 for each of eight offered works of your choice during subscription periods. Whatta ya get? Contemporary prints and sculpture, multiples by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists. Subscriber privileges include discounts on inventory, hobnobbing time with live famous artists and invitations to events that are often enlightening, always fun. Graphicstudio will even let you share your subscription with a buddy. For more info, call Curator Bob Hanning at 813-974-5871 or check out www.graphicstudio.usf.edu.

Heller/Urso One-Day Pre Christmas Sale

Thursday, Dec. 13

11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.

813-837-1055 (call for location)

For as little as $18 (and up, natch), you can purchase all original one-of-a kind art. Stuff like artist Josette Urso's wildly imaginative jewelry. Or artist Carolyn Heller's hand-painted cell phone covers and cocktail napkins (for under $20) and other assorted arty gifts. The duo makes this annual sale a must.

Artsiphartsi

2717 W. Kennedy Blvd.

Tampa 813-348-4838

If you haven't been there, done that, go now, with plastic, checks or bags o' cash. Everything from jewelry to one-of a kind everything you ever needed to make your pad cozy, colorful and charming.

New Heights Gallery

6310 N. Nebraska Ave.

Tampa 813-234-9758

Emphasis on glass. Recommended: glass birds ($45); unique custom-designed steel epoxied abstract or figurative table bases and chairs with glass inserts ($10,000-$20,000).

Scarfone/Hartley Galleries

North B Street and Brevard Avenue

University of Tampa

813-253-6217

Recommended: Stacy Rosende lyrical screenprint ($300).

Florida Craftsman Gallery

501 Central Ave.

St. Pete 727-821-7391

Recommended: Bonnie Seeman's funky one-of-a-kind ceramic pitchers ($575); Lisa Glaser's doggie chess set ($800).

Hyde Park Fine Arts

937 S. Howard Ave.

Tampa 813-258-8883

Recommended: Karen Peters' funky ceramic "Go Ask Alice" tea cup ($150).

Pearl Artist and Craft Supply

3916 W. Hillsborough Ave.

Tampa 813-354-8555

A place of dreams for the artists in your life or artist hopefuls. Scrumptious and chockfull of art goodies. Think what world we'd have if everyone made art together. So buy a basket, get your tush down to Pearl and stuff it (the basket) with art supplies for the entire family. Wrap it in cellophane. Top with a big ribbon and Voila! Art in a Basket. Some basket-stuffers: Calligraphy sets ($7.96 to 29.96); Paper Clay ($5.59). Gift certificates are also available.

Adrienne M. Golub can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].