Let the holiday shopping begin Nov. 22 —with a creative twist!

\ TORONTO EAST \ We’re coming up to near one month to go until Christmas Day, the hallmark still generally regarded —despite the wonderful multiplicity of other cultural celebrations also observed in Toronto this time of year— as the central occasion of the “holiday” and gift-giving season. No matter your cultural or religious background, once the snow starts coming it’s hard to avoid getting into the spirit of exchanging tokens of affection with loved ones and special acquaintances this time of year. But the cost of doing so can be a bank balance breaker! HAF 14-1eBut on Saturday November 22 this year, shoppers with an artistic bent have an interesting opportunity to acquire a pretty good selection of creative pieces suitable as stocking stuffers or special gifts —while also enjoying a night of spectacular entertainment!

The multidisciplinary Holiday Arts Festival being staged at Black Swan Tavern that night jointly by Pete Otis of SongTown, poet Sheila Horne and artist Linda R. Goldman (and reprised with a couple of tweaks on Sat. December 13 at El Mocambo) offers a roster of live music and literary readings, an open stage and displays of original visual art —with an anchoring merchandise table at which a variety of items suitable for gifting will be available for sale. Picking up an album you like put out by one of the seven performing songwriters (there’s a brand new one, for example, Workin’ On It, actually being released as part of the show by veteran songwriter Pat Little!) or a book of poetry, novel or stories by one of the five writers who will do readings, makes for an inexpensive stocking stuffer or very thoughtful gift that will give many hours of enjoyment to the recipient —not to mention will encourage and enable the creators in their endeavours.

Similarly, a work of art is a completely unique way to tell someone you “get” them and also to ensure that they think of you often in days to come. While a painting may be out reach of some budgets, among the visual creators sharing their affordable wares will be Yorkville-era alumnus t-shirt designer Kenny Weber, as well as photographers such as Kimberly Mallett.

Other artists with works on display and for sale include Paul Zulauf, Victoria Bombin and Jocelyn Mann. (You can also get a special price, btw, on a gift subscription to Toronto Moon Magazine as I’ll be there emceeing the night while also celebrating my birthday and running the open stage that follows the scheduled acts.) The roster of live performances is impressive: the readers include Horne; Tom Taylor; Joanna Gale; Donna Marrin; Victoria Ilgacs —as well as a special reciting of some of the poems of the late Nik Beat, who acted as emcee for a similar precursor to this show that took place earlier this year. Musically it’s also a full schedule of great acts with Michael Bar and his combo kicking off, followed by Otis, Little’s group, the 3X Trio, The Romas Project and special appearances by Harpin’ Norm Lucien and Nicole “Songbird” Coward —who also just released a new album, Strong Enough For Love, getting rave reviews and airplay, btw. Best of all it’s only $5 to get in! Doors for the show at 154 Danforth Ave., open at 6 and the festivities rev up starting at 7. For more information email peteotismusic@hotmail.com . -Gary 17, www.torontomoon.ca