Janet Russell, owner of Creative Framing Art Gallery, has paved a wide path for the arts in Louisville.
By Billie Jeanne Fyfe
Janet Russell is a champion for the arts in Louisville. She’s the powerhouse behind several arts initiatives including the Louisville Arts District (LAD) and First Friday Art Walks (FFAW), which garnered her Women Who Light the Community honors from the Boulder Chamber in 2012. And as the owner of Creative Framing Art Gallery, she continues to be at the heart of both the community and its arts scene.
The First Friday Art Walks—a popular family friendly event—boast numerous participants including art venues, retail shops, 22 restaurants, multiple brewpubs and a wine bar. “Many of the downtown businesses offer pop-up galleries and featured artists,” Russell says. (Ever the local arts advocate, she invites us to look for a much-anticipated FFAW relaunch rendezvous in July.)
Russell references the arts district much like a proud parent. Among the organization’s unique attributes, she notes, “We’re not financed by local government or tax stipends; we formed the LAD as a grassroots business entity, with a board and volunteers, in a not-for-profit model. We’re largely self-sustaining. Though we do accept small contributions from local organizations, the city of Louisville, Downtown Business Association, and the Louisville Chamber of Commerce.
“We also conduct fundraising programs that enable us to bring more art into the community,” she adds. The updating of Via Artista (an art-rich alleyway that runs through the district) and the placement of murals by internationally known artists are examples of Russell-championed LAD endeavors.
By way of backstory, Russell, one of 11 children, was born on a tiny islet in the Philippines. “My family raised coconuts, and harvested food from the ocean to eke out a living,” she recalls. Prior to coming to the U.S. with her husband in 1976, she studied fashion design. Determined to take advantage of educational opportunities, she went on to earn a business degree, rising through the ranks of the Colorado high-tech industry. But art was always in her heart.
Russell’s primary motivations are “to create and delight.” In addition to her great work for the arts community, she’s also been living that goal through 25 years in her framing business. You name it, and she’s likely framed it. “We specialize in composite military honors—flags, uniforms, medals,” she says. Then there’s the occasional Egyptian mummy mask, Byzantine artifact or ancient textile. Also, Nobel Prize certificates, Purple Hearts and Congressional Medals of Honor. And times-of-our-lives memorabilia, such as sports jerseys and celebrity guitars.
She’ll frame most anything, “though I once turned down a snakeskin project,” she laughs. More often, she preserves family heirlooms and treasures. “We did a memorial for a gentleman that included his wife’s Miss Kansas tiara and Emporia State University letter sweater, for display in an on-campus honorarium. He was so touched by this tribute of love that he donated it to the school.”
As for the gallery side of her business—now a longtime opportunity for both established and emerging artists—Russell offers five yearly shows with live music, food and beverages. “We host four artists for every show, over a two-month window. During their second month, artists bring in a new body of work, so if you visit once each month, you’ll see a completely different presentation. Every show has a fresh tone and palpable excitement in the air. It makes for a wonderfully fun evening!”
Russell reserves one spot in each show to introduce an up-and-coming artist. She tells the story of one such find who displayed a gift for depicting mountain aspens. The artist painted 14 pieces in a six-month period to meet show requirements. (She sold 13!)
Russell reflects, “I always enjoy giving someone else an opportunity to succeed.”
Pursuit of perfect presentation. Art that delights. Generational joy. Community building. Creativity unending. This is not only a business, but also a way of life …
Take a digital drone tour of the Creative Framing Art Gallery and visit them at creativeframingartgallery.com. In person, stop by 916 Main St. in Louisville. Contact Janet Russell at 303-664-0043 or email@example.com.