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Sunday April 11th

FRANK's clay exhibit aims to attract new crowds

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A Franklin Street art gallery is playing host to more than 30 of the state’s premiere ceramic artists during the next month.

FRANK, a gallery founded collectively by area artists, is holding its first North Carolina Clay Invitational from Sept. 7 to Oct. 24 at its location at 109 E. Franklin St.

The opening reception kicked off Friday night at a crowded gallery packed with artists, art collectors and viewers. Ceramics ranging from cups to large, decorative pots were scattered throughout the gallery alongside wall paintings.

Damla Senturk, a Chapel Hill resident new to the area, visited the gallery for the first time Friday.

“The paintings are my favorite, and I really like the gallery overall,” she said.

FRANK opened in April with the help of a special loan from the town of Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

Designed to help the gallery flourish, the loan is interest-free for the first two years and low-interest for the rest of the term.

Jan Butta, local painter and one of the gallery’s founders, said Franklin Street was the perfect place to showcase county talent. But even with the great location, she said the gallery is still struggling to rally community donations.

Because Chapel Hill has a large population of students, Butta said it’s hard to depend solely on the contributions of a small, older population that can afford high-quality art.

“We need continued support,” Butta said. “People still don’t know about FRANK or that it’s a nonprofit. We don’t have much money for advertising.”

Founding member Gordon Jameson, a painter and chairman of the gallery’s board of directors, said the gallery is impacting not only the Chapel Hill art scene but also the business climate.

“FRANK has brought a different presence to Chapel Hill,” Jameson said. “A lot of older people who stopped visiting downtown are coming back again.”

“We’ve had people from Manhattan, Washington and Kentucky,” he said. “One collector from Kentucky purchased over $10,000 worth of art from the gallery.”

Ceramic artist Mark Hewitt, who is featured in the invitational, said he thinks Franklin Street has some of the best art in the area. Hewitt and fellow ceramicist Julie Olson said they got involved with the gallery because they enjoy the local art scene that Chapel Hill provides.

Olson said the inspiration for her work, which is also on display as part of the invitational, was drawn from just looking out of her window.

“I live in the country, and outside I looked at the birds,” she said. “I try to make my art personal.”

Contact the City Editor at citydesk@unc.edu.

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