Although pressure, and even pretension, are often the standard at art galleries, they are against the rules at the Chesapeake Framing & Art Gallery. Instead, respectful individualized attention and guidance prevail within the inviting, light and airy 1,850-square-foot showroom that opened at Downtown Crown in November.
“This is not a classic gallery,” said owner Mary Jo Moon. “We cater to people who may be insecure (about the experience), help them come to the edge and step over it. We’re good at helping them find their place.”
The goal is to take the time to educate the client, and foster a relationship that hones in on personal taste, needs and budgets, in effect, taking “the intimidation out of the process of selecting art,” director Kelly Ryan explained.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine art at the Maryland Institute College of Art and working for Moon in the gallery’s Kensington location for about five years, Ryan assumed the role of director of Chesapeake’s upcounty outlet. The open-space gallery displays original art by local and national artists in all mediums, including acrylics, oils, prints, etchings and sculpture; and offers custom framing—with some 5,000 frames and hundreds of mats—and installation. “It’s fabulous to see people’s delight in having so many choices,” Moon noted. In addition, the space may be rented for performances and events.
Each month, the work of a local artist is highlighted in the front of the gallery. In June, it was Lori Anne Boocks, a Rockville artist who works in a studio at Artists & Makers; July’s soloist will be Lori Askinazi, a Potomac interior designer who recently returned to painting. “We’re considering another Lori for August,” Ryan said–seriously. Both Moon and Ryan are “always on the lookout for new artists,” both locally and during their travels.
Moon “meant to become a filmmaker,” attending the School of Visual Arts for two years, then moving from her native Sea Cliff, N.Y. to D.C. where her sisters lived. With no formal art training, the 19-year-old took a job in a framing shop. “The owner just threw me in and let me swim,” she recalled. “I’m a quick learner, and that’s what I look for in my designers.”
After refining her skills, Moon went on to manage a framing shop for two or three years, but was frustrated that the owner was “not serious enough. Deadlines didn’t mean anything to her.” By age 23, she set up her own business as a distributor, supplying frame shops, but didn’t have a “big enough investment to make it,” and switched to wholesale framing for commercial clients, including Marriott and the George Meany Center. She incorporated Chesapeake in 1989, began doing more retail work, eventually downsizing a bit from her Howard Avenue location to Metropolitan Avenue in 2010.
Moon, who Ryan describes as a “relaxed Type A” personality, believes firmly in living up to her commitments and not wasting her customers’ time. Ryan concurs, noting that they “make sure to work with the best vendors. If they don’t deliver, we won’t use them again. We hand-select our molding; we inspect each piece.” And their policy is not to skip any of the “many important steps involved in custom framing,” she added, “We use museum-quality materials and techniques to frame customers’ artwork (as well as their) heirlooms, diplomas and ketubahs.”
Judith HeartSong, founder and executive director of Artists and Makers Studios, home to more than 70 artists, has known Moon and Chesapeake for about 14 years.
“I have worked with many framers over the course of my 33-year career, and have never experienced quite the same level of attention and professionalism that is the standard at Chesapeake,” she said. “In all the years I have known her, Mary Jo Moon and her staff have always gone the extra mile, getting that extra special molding for a job, meeting tight deadlines, even helping with the transportation and installation of tricky pieces.”
She said she often recommends them “to friends and artists looking for great service and attention to detail, and I am always certain that they will have a great experience, and come away with gorgeous framing.”
Ryan said Downtown Crown was the choice location for the second Chesapeake because “it is an up-and-coming community,” where businesses help each other, a perfect base from which they can develop art and style in Upper Montgomery County. At Chesapeake’s wine-and-cheese openings, they often partner with local restaurants like Paladar, and have featured yoga and sound demos.
Among the possibilities they are considering are a chalk artist doing a mural on the sidewalk during Downtown Crown’s summer concert series in July, and holding artist classes for seniors in the fall.
For information, visit www.chesapeakeframing.com,