When Village Arts Framing and Gallery opens for business March 24, it will have passed a milestone.
As one of the longest-standing establishments in the newly renovated Sawgrass Village shopping center, the neighborhood frame shop will celebrate its 25th anniversary with an artists’ open house from 4 to 7 p.m. While a lot has changed in that time, much has remained the same. The frame shop that once stood next to Publix as a small specialty store has now doubled in size next to Trasca and Co. Eatery, and several modern additions have changed the face of the plaza since Village Arts' Ponte Vedra debut in 1992. But the “vibe,” Proprietor Pamela Keegan said, hasn’t wavered. Keegan proudly counts herself as one of several local business owners who make up the bulk of Sawgrass Village’s tenants, and March 24 will mark her own 10th anniversary as owner.
The path to ownership was a journey for Keegan, who first purchased the store from former owner and Jacksonville-based artist Virginia Cantore. Village Arts’ origins far exceed its tenure in Ponte Vedra, having first opened in 1975 in Jacksonville’s historic Avondale neighborhood. Previously an art supply store housing no more than 10 frames and six mats, Village Arts was methodically expanded by Keegan. Now half gallery and half frame shop, it has carved out a niche in Ponte Vedra’s art community.
“I represent 15 local artists in the community, including myself,” Keegan said. “And it makes me feel so good to be able to help them sell art that’s unique. It’s not over-processed – these are all original pieces of art, and it’s really special to be able to do that.”
Working with the goal of keeping art local, accessible and affordable, Keegan has made the walls of Village Arts a home for several artists she has come to know over the course of her career. In addition to a diverse assortment of acid-free, conservation-wise frames crafted by Keegan and artist Francesca Garsh, the store also acts as an exhibition space for a collection of more than 150 original oils, acrylics and watercolor paintings, photographs and mixed-media pieces. Meeting that need, Keegan said, has been one of the highlights of her tenure.
“Coming into ownership and … acting as proprietor, which is something I never thought I’d be, has been such an incredible journey,” she said. “Framing excellent artwork have given me the chance to ‘travel’ with the artist and meet so many people, develop nice relationships with them all. So it’s been wonderful. I go to work with a smile on my face and leave the same way.”
According to Keegan, Friday’s open house event will bring more of the intimate artistic experiences customers have come to expect; several local and regional art will be featured, and many will be in attendance to speak with guests and describe their processes. The storefront will also host demonstrations by featured artists.
As for long-term goals, Keegan insists she is happy to continue to bring the space and services that local artists and customers have grown to love.
“Village Arts is doing very well,” she said. “I’ve developed so many great relationships with customers and artists and they tell me how happy they are – and it’s just such a rewarding experience when someone comes to you to tell you what a great job you’ve done. I just want to continue framing and selling great artwork.”