some people, the shopping at the museum is just as important as the art at the museum. I confess: I am one of those people.

So it should come as no surprise that I was excited to see the Contemporary Arts Center’s revamped gift shop. At 300 square feet, the new shop’s footprint is smaller than the previous retail space (that area is now a gorgeously appointed café), but is now front and center, boasting a collection of carefully selected merchandise. “You can take home a piece of art from the CAC through our curated store,” points out Regina Carswell Russo, Chief of Communications.

CAC Retail Sales Manager Erin Sansalone led the curation process, spending time checking out her favorite websites and blogs for inspiration, even taking a trip to New York City to tour museum gift shops there. She might even have researched interesting in-store entertainment to set up in the shop, such as a TV that plays Bob Ross in the background ( while art enthusiasts shop around. Watching a painting come to life can be a soothing experience to have when shopping for, well, art. “We were interested in thoughtful design,” says Sansalone. She’s curated a selection of items for four different categories: Living Room Art, Modern Kitchen, Contemporary Kids, and Stop-You-in-The-Streets Jewelry, my personal favorite.

CAC-Home_inspoOne of Erin’s inspiration boards

The merchandise covers a wide range of price points, from $18 ceramic fortune cookies that you’re actually supposed to break to get the fortune, to a $450 Kara Walker x Bernardaud pitcher that’s evidently in high demand. I fell in love with a set of small Jeff Koons plates, each one with a different design including a painting of Michael Jackson and Bubbles the Chimp ($350 for a set of 6) and an amazing leather Oropopo necklace ($165).

CAC-gift-shop1Oropopo necklaces, $154 and $165

CAC-gift-shop3Ceramic fortune cookies to break on purpose!CAC-gift-shop4Ceramic fortune cookies to break on purpose!

Looking around the first floor, the entire space seems more open and somehow brighter, likely helped by huge color-changing column lights, brightly colored graphics, and a general re-jiggering of the entire floor. Even the gift shop fixtures, specially designed for the space by local outfit Riverside Architectural Millwork, fit perfectly under the angular stairwell.

CAC-cafeLooking across the lobby to the cafe

“The idea behind the remodel is to create more energy and accessibility to contemporary art and culture,” says Carswell-Russo. Indeed, the café looks like a great space to hang out, with its wood-and-cream chairs and a tall counter with gleaming silver fixtures.

I know where I’ll be getting my caffeine-and-shopping fix this Spring.