<p>"Everyone who walks in here goes, 'Wow!'" says general manager Kate Fergusson. And—self-interest notwithstanding—she's not overstating the case. Just one month shy of a year old, the Artful Hand, in Copley Place, has been quietly wowing people ever since it opened last September.</p> <p>The magic begins at the entrance: large windows reveal a peaceful, almost ethereal environment filled with softly lighted gallerylike displays of top-quality contemporary American crafts. The store does not carry folksy handmade items such as rag rugs, stenciled stools, and macramé plant hangers. What it does carry—delicate hand-painted silk scarves, hand-blown glass sculptures dancing with color, jewelry, whimsical ceramic dishware, and baskets—shimmers with sophistication.</p> <p>Merchandise such as this would seem to fetch astronomical prices. But not all of it does. In fact, buyers Joe Porcari and Terry Weschler make a point of stocking items that appeal to all budgets.</p> <p>"Other countries tend to be more aware and supportive of their crafts people than we are here," says Fergusson. "In the United States, more people are just now beginning to realize that much of American craftwork is really important."</p> <p>And the Artful Hand is a worthy vehicle for that message.</p>
The burgeoning SOWA (South of Washington) district is now a must-see destination, thanks in no small part to Bernie Toale. Toale's gallery has been a showcase for everything from the sculpture of Roxy Paine to the intricate, layered drawings of ICA Artist Prize-winner Ambreen Butt to the portraits of photographer David Hilliard. The gallery's Boston Drawing Project also provides a much-needed home for other local artists and for worthy smaller projects that might otherwise be overlooked. 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA .
At BCAE, you can learn everything from beadmaking to digital filmmaking. And that's just scratching the surface. In each case, you'll find a friendly atmosphere in classes taught by professionals: The burlesque course, for one, is led by dancers from Rogue Burlesque, who perform at the A.R.T.'s Oberon and other hip spots. 122 Arlington St., Boston, MA bcae.org.
Few Boston galleries can claim to have an international following, but this small fourth-floor boutique on Newbury Street is a big-league player. When Robert Klein founded his gallery more than 30 years ago, he was one of the first to exhibit works by Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, and Sally Mann. Throughout the years, his unerring eye for photography's best has resulted in a collection that rivals any in the world. 38 Newbury St. #402, Boston, MA 2116, robertkleingallery.com.
Because it is a nonprofit, the Space has the courage to harbor exhibits it doesn't need to sell. Visitors, therefore, get an artist's conception unshackled. 107 South Street, Boston, MA .
Vose has been in the same family for five generations, for more than a century and a half. It has a right to be snooty but isn't. The owners will enthusiastically show you an $85,000 painting even if you look as though you couldn't afford its frame. 238 Newbury Street, Boston, MA .
Particularly effective in getting people to notice and buy local work. Lincoln Station, Lincoln, MA .
Still the place where the country's best show. 7 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
The Bilzerian of the art community. We especially like the commitment to local artists even when they don't sell. 36 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
The reserved atmosphere may be more Cambridge than New Orleans, but Tupelo's southern flavors are right on. Owners Mike Walker and Renee McLeod serve authentic comfort-food classics like creamy pimiento cheese (the caviar of the South), hearty gumbo, and crunchy fried crawfish tails. The crown jewel? Alligator prepped the way God intended: coated in buttermilk batter, hot sauce, and Cajun spices, and piled on a bed of creamy cheddar grits. 1193 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 02139, tupelo02139.com.
Invite a little life into your workspace with help from this South Boston shop, which carries and delivers all things leafy and green (bamboo palm, burro’s tail, Venus flytraps), plus fun pots to display them in. Even better: You can brighten two households with Micro’s “buy to give” initiative, which lets you sponsor a succulent to send to a local essential worker. 365 W. Broadway, Boston, MA 02127, microplantstudio.com.
With worthy new openings like Flock, Uncle Pete's, and Suneri, this category is getting crowded. But Stel's owners Tina Burgos, Dave Nauyokas, and Jon Callahan keep packing their Newbury digs with an independent-minded collection that's fashion-forward without being too trendy. Personalized service and a unique selection of Rachel Comey, Gary Graham, Tom Scott, and Cardigan threads earn the shop mail-order customers from around the country, many celebrities among them. 334 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2115, .
Hey, you—in the cargo pants and Chucks. Casualwear is fine for casual moments, but your big client meeting, your anniversary dinner, and for-the-love-of-Christ your best friend's wedding call for something far spiffier. At Louis Boston (go on, it's not as scary as it looks), made-to-measure and ready-to-wear suits from Brioni, Kiton, and Dries Van Noten make dressing up a cinch. Even easier-going ensembles by such names as Neil Barrett and Annapuna put postcollege khakis to shame. 60 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 2110, louisboston.com.
This 230-room palace has bragging rights locked up, thanks to its flawless waterfront view from Rowes Wharf. The whole scene—billowing sails, bright blue slices of sky and harbor, and a breathtaking panorama of the cityscape—is straight out of a postcard fantasy (and will even make you forget the chaos of Big Dig construction out front). The interior views aren't too shabby, either: luxuries including a plush spa, gracious suites, experienced concierges, and a terrific restaurant. 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA bhh.com/.
Let the newcomers show off their newfangled steakhouse specialties; people who really love steak will always return to Boston's exemplar of the genre. Here you'll find dry-aged, bone-in chops and tenderloins that drip with flavor in each juicy bite. The vibe—gold rails, leather banquettes, white-coated waiters—is classic without seeming clubby. 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 2116, grill23.com.