I think one of the best things about this community are our hidden treasures. They can be a park or a playground or, in this particular case, a small independent local business. Small businesses are a challenge to operate, as I've noted previously in this blog. They are a challenge even in cities with potential employees pounding at your door, desperate to work for you. They are challenge even in cities with low rent and easily available retail locations. Of course here all those factors work against small business, so finding ones that are successful in both the financial and community sense is a joy. I found this, people, in a business called Frames and More. Frames and More is located downtown on Centennial Drive (very close to Franklin) and even the location is a bit of a surprise as they are surrounded by businesses quite unlike theirs - and yet, they thrive.
Why are they unlike their neighbours? Well, they have as neighbours a vet clinic, a grooming salon, and other very service-related businesses. And Frames and More does provide a service, too, as the name implies. It is a framing shop, one of those wonderful places where you can take a treasured work of art, a print, or a photograph and have it professionally framed. I happen to love framing shops as I'm one of those that can linger for hours over choosing a beautiful frame. In the case of Frames and More, though, it is the "more" that is intriguing. You see, the "more" is an art gallery - and an art gallery of the best kind, full of local art.
I think I've made it pretty clear in this blog that I am a huge fan and supporter of local artists. The trouble with local artists, though, is that they often struggle to find places to show their works. This is particularly true in a community such as ours where there are few such places to be found, and space is limited. There is the art gallery at MacDonald Island, and it's a terrific spot, but artists truly need a little spot that can showcase a few of their works and just give them some of that local exposure they need. Frames and More is the place, people.
When you walk into Frames and More the first thing you notice is that the noise of Franklin seems to recede as you hear softly running water. There is a tranquility here that allows you to check your stress at the door, and this is truly the hallmark of a wonderful place to view art. You cannot fully experience art if you are anxious or distressed or preoccupied, so it is essential to create an ambience that makes the viewing experience peaceful. Frames and More has accomplished this beautifully, and it was mere seconds before I was able to enjoy the art.
And the art, people, the art! From paintings to jewelry, fibre arts to decorative birdhouses, photography to moose hair tufting(!), it is all here. There is art by one of my local favourites, Lucas Seaward, who depicts wildlife in the most gorgeous way, every stroke so thoughtful and careful (Lucas is now experimenting with painting with bitumen, a topic I look forward to writing about). There are whimsical pencil sketches, and paintings from local residents, pieces with an ethnic flair that is a nod to their heritage in other countries. There is jewelry that attracts sparkly-minded women like me, and even hand-made soap that smells so glorious you wonder if you should just take a bite of it.
And then there are the staff. The shop owner, Florence, is a lovely lady who is clearly committed to the community and to helping local artists to achieve some notice. Her staff are wonderful, friendly and kind, and willing to stop and talk a bit, too. Florence took me around the shop, showing me various pieces and telling me about the individual artists. There is a deeply personal feeling in this store, a sense of pride and joy. There is no doubt that framing is their business but art is their passion, and it spills out onto every wall and available floor surface.
During Alberta Art Days Frames and More decided they would allow community artists to contribute to their community art wall on the storefront. They asked locals - adults or children - to come by and contribute. They supplied the paint and brushes, and the artists brought their creativity. People, this to me is art in a community. This is art in motion, art as a way to bind us together. The photos from that day make me smile, to see these local residents contributing to this little local business in this fashion.
So, people, here it is. If you want to seek out one of Fort Mac's hidden treasures, head over to Frames and More. Maybe take a print in to be framed (if you are like me you have several stuffed away somewhere). Or, maybe, just wander in to check out the community art wall, or the local art on display. When I went last time I left with a beautiful new scarf, hand spun and knitted by local fibre artist Michelle Boyd, and two bars of handmade soap, one of which now fills my bathroom with the scent of licorice. I suspect next time I may leave with a piece of jewelry, or even the small painting that I have been keeping my eye on. Maybe you will leave with a new piece of art, too, or a framed print. Or, maybe, you will leave with a renewed sense of peace and tranquility, an appreciation for some local artists - and a sense that you have discovered a gem in our community. To me, that is truly priceless. See ya there, Fort Mac!
Frames and More is located at B3 10015 Centennial Drive,
and can also be found on Facebook. They continue to seek
local artists to contribute to the community art wall, and interested
individuals are asked to visit the store or call 780-790-1777 to inquire.