Artists and management agree the nonprofit Frank Gallery is drawing more new faces since leaving East Franklin Street in January.
Carrboro painter Nerys Levy hopes people see the arts collective’s new home in University Place on South Estes Drive as an extension of Chapel Hill’s downtown, as well as another breath of life for the mall.
“We are an entertainment area, and we’re here for people to have another side of life,” Levy said. “I’d like for people to see us as part of revitalizing and putting new life into a space ... and we count on the town to support us as we grow in this space.”
The Frank Gallery closed its doors at 109 E. Franklin St. after seven years and reopened last week in the mall’s former Tyndall Galleries space. A grand re-opening event with food, music and, of course, art, is happening Friday.
“We are community advocates, and we’re really proud to be a part of Chapel Hill,” gallery manager Natalie Knox said. “We had a great run being on Franklin Street, but this opportunity with this space came up, and it was just hard to pass up.”
While the new gallery offers a little less wall space to its 24 member-artists and a rotating group of local and regional artists, Chapel Hill artist Jean LeCluyse said the lighting is better and there’s more room for 3-D works. A market inside the gallery, which opened before Christmas as a pop-up store, sells smaller goods, such as jewelry.
Gordon Jameson, founding member and board member, announced the gallery’s move in December, saying it creates “the potential for great synergies” with other businesses and groups in the mall, including Kidzu Children’s Museum, located across the concourse.
Landlord Madison Marquette also gave them use of a large space near A Southern Season for the Michael and Laura Brader-Araje Community Outreach Gallery, which offers the Frank’s community-based art programs, including the National PTA Reflections Art Show, happening now, and the Karen Youth Art Group, showcasing work by immigrants from Myanmar (Burma).
Parking is another plus, Knox said.
“Having the pop-up show was a good indicator of how things are going to go,” she said. “We had so much more foot traffic in this spot than Franklin Street. I think a lot of people are deterred by the fact that parking is really tough down there.”
There will be many more events, workshops and community partnerships with the new space, Knox said, and the rent “is definitely better.” They’ve also seen a spillover effect from being near Silverspot Cinema, with movie-goers stopping by before and after the show, and the mall’s new restaurants.
It’s been a rough ride since the Frank opened in 2010 with a $48,640 small business loan from the town. Tax documents show the gallery posted annual losses that reached a peak of $131,753 in 2014. The gallery posted a loss of $76,695 in 2015 and $270,271 in revenues for 2015, the latest year available.
The next year, Michael Brader-Araje, the gallery’s landlord, forgave roughly $150,000 in back rent, and the town modified its agreement so the gallery could pay its remaining debt – $20,432 – with two years of community-based, in-kind services. That agreement ended in January.
Whether the nonprofit gallery’s model is sustainable in the long term is “a tough question to answer,” Knox said. The Frank’s programs are supported by gallery rental fees, donations, an annual fundraising gala, and membership dues and commissions from art sales.
“We are trying to do the best that we can and making as many sales as we can,” Knox said.
If you go
The Frank’s grand re-opening will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9 at the gallery, located in University Place, 201 S. Estes Drive in Chapel Hill.
Tickets also are available for the Frank’s eighth annual “Off the Wall” art gala – the gallery’s biggest fundraiser – scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, April 14. Patron Tickets are $150 for two admissions. Art Tickets are $450 each, plus $50 for a guest, which entitles the Art Ticket holder to a random drawing for art.
Tickets are available at the gallery and online at frankisart.com/gala2018.