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Exhibits? What exhibits? 

Museums are for shopping.

BOTTLE TOPPERS: At the Arts Center.
  • BOTTLE TOPPERS: At the Arts Center.
Ah, museums. So noble, so educational, such loftier places than shopping malls to spend an afternoon. Especially when you can spend half that afternoon in the gift shop. The Arkansas Times office is conveniently situated within a few blocks of five, count ’em five, downtown museums. I’m here to tell you, there are no better places to drop in if you need a unique gift at the last minute, or just get hit by the retail itch on your lunch hour and don’t have time to leave the neighborhood. No need to pay admission fees if you’re just there to shop. I started my personal tour at the Arkansas Arts Center, which packs an amazing assortment of arty merchandise into a small space just inside the front door. One alcove is packed with creative/intellectually stimulating children’s toys and books, but the rest is for grown-ups. My favorite picks: bright, fun semi-precious jewelry from Rae Ann Collections; wine-bottle stoppers topped with goofy ceramic faces ($10) — I already own one of those — and beautiful, abstract art-glass knobs ($40); and “Botticelli’s Bed and Breakfast” ($32.50), a spectacular pop-up tableau that sets 56 art masterpieces into about a dozen “rooms” (Mona Lisa’s climbing a ladder from the wine cellar, while the guy from “The Scream” is tucked into a bed on the second floor). I’m a bit of a pop-up-book connoisseur, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m also fond of a collection of wine, martini and margarita classes whose stems are curved to one side to form a sort of handle ($12 each). Next I dropped in at the Historic Arkansas Museum, where Arkansas-made crafts are the main attraction. Handmade soaps, pottery, carved gourds, watercolor paintings, even a scroll-leg wrought iron table ($695). Two handmade wooden ikebanas — think of them as sort of candleholders for minimalist flower arrangements — caught my eye ($45-$50). There’s also a wide assortment of books for all ages on Arkansas and American history, and several kinds of crafting kits and old-timey toys for children. The store at the Museum of Discovery is all about kids — and all about, well, discovering stuff. There’s a touch of irony in the selection of toys that coincide with the new exhibit on predators: soft, plush stuffed sharks in three sizes. Snuggle buddy or lethal limb chomper — you decide! But you’ll also find things like a wind-up brain ($4), coloring books on subjects from Native American culture to space exploration, a Science Bingo game ($14), a volcano model kit ($13), and educational placemats featuring star charts, the periodic table and human anatomy, among other subjects ($3). The other two museum shops downtown are at the Old State House and the Clinton library shop a couple blocks west of the Clinton Presidential Center. n New store alert: Board game enthusiasts of all kinds should check out Imagine (no, it’s not a John Lennon memorabilia palace or a head shop), which opened its doors on Sept. 9. The store, on JFK between North Hills and Kiehl in Sherwood, sells all kinds of non-electronic games and game parts — board games, Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic, Dungeons and Dragons, etc. — but, and this is the interesting part, owner Jay Morgan says most of the store’s space is seating room for folks who just want to hang out and play Monopoly or Axis and Allies or Candyland or whatever else suits their fancy. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-“midnightish” Friday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. I’d like a house on Park Place, please. shoppingchick@arktimes.com The Arkansas Times office is conveniently situated within a few blocks of five, count ’em five, downtown museums. I’m here to tell you, there are no better places to drop in if you need a unique gift at the last minute, or just get hit by the retail itch on your lunch hour and don’t have time to leave the neighborhood. No need to pay admission fees if you’re just there to shop. I started my personal tour at the Arkansas Arts Center, which packs an amazing assortment of arty merchandise into a small space just inside the front door. One alcove is packed with creative/intellectually stimulating children’s toys and books, but the rest is for grown-ups. My favorite picks: bright, fun semi-precious jewelry from Rae Ann Collections; wine-bottle stoppers topped with goofy ceramic faces ($10) — I already own one of those — and beautiful, abstract art-glass knobs ($40); and “Botticelli’s Bed and Breakfast” ($32.50), a spectacular pop-up tableau that sets 56 art masterpieces into about a dozen “rooms” (Mona Lisa’s climbing a ladder from the wine cellar, while the guy from “The Scream” is tucked into a bed on the second floor). I’m a bit of a pop-up-book connoisseur, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m also fond of a collection of wine, martini and margarita classes whose stems are curved to one side to form a sort of handle ($12 each). Next I dropped in at the Historic Arkansas Museum, where Arkansas-made crafts are the main attraction. Handmade soaps, pottery, carved gourds, watercolor paintings, even a scroll-leg wrought iron table ($695). Two handmade wooden ikebanas — think of them as sort of candleholders for minimalist flower arrangements — caught my eye ($45-$50). There’s also a wide assortment of books for all ages on Arkansas and American history, and several kinds of crafting kits and old-timey toys for children. The store at the Museum of Discovery is all about kids — and all about, well, discovering stuff. There’s a touch of irony in the selection of toys that coincide with the new exhibit on predators: soft, plush stuffed sharks in three sizes. Snuggle buddy or lethal limb chomper — you decide! But you’ll also find things like a wind-up brain ($4), coloring books on subjects from Native American culture to space exploration, a Science Bingo game ($14), a volcano model kit ($13), and educational placemats featuring star charts, the periodic table and human anatomy, among other subjects ($3). The other two museum shops downtown are at the Old State House and the Clinton library shop a couple blocks west of the Clinton Presidential Center. n New store alert: Board game enthusiasts of all kinds should check out Imagine (no, it’s not a John Lennon memorabilia palace or a head shop), which opened its doors on Sept. 9. The store, on JFK between North Hills and Kiehl in Sherwood, sells all kinds of non-electronic games and game parts — board games, Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic, Dungeons and Dragons, etc. — but, and this is the interesting part, owner Jay Morgan says most of the store’s space is seating room for folks who just want to hang out and play Monopoly or Axis and Allies or Candyland or whatever else suits their fancy. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-“midnightish” Friday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. I’d like a house on Park Place, please. shoppingchick@arktimes.com
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