Our 2019 holiday gift guide - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Our 2019 holiday gift guide

Looking for thoughtful gifts that are equitable, sustainable, and community-oriented? We have some great recommendations for the urbanists, activists, and advocates in your life. 

Image courtesy freestocks.org via Pexels

Chicago's winter chill always seems to sneak up on us... as does holiday gift-giving! Per our annual tradition, we polled staffers on their go-to recommendations and exciting new finds, with a mind towards gifts that are equity-minded, sustainably sourced, or made by our Chicago neighbors, partners, and friends. Keep reading for some ideas on how to start winnowing down that gift list.

"Lee Bey is a Chicago-based photographer who documents architecture and the built environment in and around the city. His new book Southern Exposure celebrates the often-overlooked architecture of Chicago’s South Side. Another fun gift I like to give are memberships to the incredible institutions around our city! From the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Museum of Science and Industry, to the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Garfield Park Conservatory, a membership is a great way for loved ones to enjoy these spaces year-round."

- Justin Keller, MPC Associate

Image via Chicagoteria

"Last year we got hats from My Block My Hood My City as part of our staff gift and it was a big hit, and 20% of all their funds go to their Explorers Program, which takes young people on trips around the city and delivers access to job opportunities. I also really love the Chicagoteria prints by artist Grae Galindo Rosa. They’re beautiful images emblematic to the Chicago Latinx community- think El Paseo in Humboldt Park, or the La Villita arch on 26th Street, rather than the downtown skyline. The prints draw inspiration from Lotería, the Mexican game of chance.

Lastly, I really like this t-shirt company called Just This- they make beautiful individualized T-shirts for every person, and send you a video of the process of screen printing your shirt! I am obsessed with their colors, and each month brings a new pallete of colors you can choose from. They’re screen printed in Logan Square."

- Isobel Araujo, MPC Assistant

Image via Block Club Chicago

"I recommend a souvenir to commemorate the famed alligator that showed up in the Humboldt Park lagoon this summer with a Chance the Snapper t-shirt! You can shop yours at Block Club Chicago and maybe even grab a local Block Club subscription for a year while you’re at it. (And for those who are wondering, Chance the Snapper can now be visited at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park!)."

- Debbie Liu, MPC Associate

Vends & Vibes Marketplace

Image via Vends & Vibes Marketplace

"Do your holiday shopping at Christmas on 55th Street! Sponsored by the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce there are a variety of family-friendly activities including caroling, s’mores over a bonfire, and the annual Vends & Vibes Marketplace at the Arts Block.

I also just discovered this resource recommended by a colleague: inclusion nudges is a handy collection of practical techniques to change behavior, culture, and systems. Sometimes operationalizing equity and inclusion within an organization can feel ambiguous. These mental pushes can help challenge implicit bias and promote more objective and inclusive decision making and makes a great stocking stuffer for inclusive leaders." 

Kendra Freeman, MPC Director

Image via Fitzroy

"As a new dad, I’m constantly on the hunt for ways to share my interest in architecture and urbanism with my daughter. Since my docent-in-training ramblings aren’t going to interest her any time soon (or, let’s face it, ever), I’m instead stocking up on beautifully drawn children’s books about cities. Two of my recent favorites are Metropolis by Benoit Tardif and The Sound of Silence written by Katrina Goldsaito and illustrated by Julia Kuo. Metropolis is a colorful tour of cities around the world: from Cairo to Hong Kong, and Buenos Aires to Berlin. And yes, they stop in Chicago! The Sound of Silence tells the story of Yoshio, a little boy in Tokyo on the search for the city’s most elusive sound: no sound at all. On his beautifully illustrated journey through the hustle and bustle, he discovers a peaceful stillness not around him, but within him." 

- Jeremy Glover, MPC Associate

Image via SixCustomDesign

"There’s something especially thoughtful about personalized, handcrafted gifts. This holiday season, check out my favorite woodworker at SixCustomDesign. Shop one-of-a-kind décor and furniture, from Chicago themed gifts to unique shelves and tables... or submit your own personalized ideas! All pieces are locally made, customizable, and exquisitely crafted. For the hard-to-shop-fors and have-it-alls on your list, shop handmade!"

- Angie Leyva, MPC Manager

The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook

Image via Belt Publishing

"What’s Chicago full of? Neighborhoods! And talented artists and writers. The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook, by Belt Publishing, combines these strengths into an anthology that will have you looking at Chicago’s 77 community areas with fresh eyes. It’s a wonderful gift for both locals and visitors alike, courtesy of Belt editor Martha Bayne."

Liz Granger, MPC Manager

Image via Beelove

"Proceeds from Beelove honey and personal care products support formerly incarcerated individuals find full-time employment. Sweet Beginning's products are also locally sourced from urban apiaries in the heart of the North Lawndale community in Chicago. Their honey is known for its complex flavor, a result of the varied flora of our urban environment. Another great option is a share in Growing Homes’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) which will delight your loved ones a weekly box of fresh, organic veggies from spring through fall, helping returning citizens re-establish community roots." 

- MarySue Barrett, MPC President


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