Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

My Photo
Location: New England, United States

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Art Corner - After the Fire and Grand Reopening

In late April of this year, our dear friends Wendy and Charles "Chuck" Lang fell afoul of an aging electrical wire that finally gave way inside their charming framing store and gallery, The Art Corner, in Salem, Massacheussetts. At around 9pm, after the store closed, the slowly smouldering wire burst into flame and consumed the entire upstairs of the shop. It took a good hour for the Fire Dept to get it under control, but do so they did - even rescuing the goldfish which miraculously all survived, except two little ones. The store itself has been in business for 30 years, 18 of which Wendy was the manager there until she purchased it from the owner three years ago. She and Chuck, and their able assistants redecorated, held regular exhibits from local artists, exhibited photos from old Salem, and had artist friends around to 'paint in the window'. Bob and I are two of the regulars who do paint performances, so when Wendy asked us back to paint again on the new premises, we leapt at the chance to show our support and just have fun with two friends who've been through a lot this year...

This is the new shop that The Art Corner has moved into until it is finally decided what to do with the old premises.

Wendy, behind the counter serving a regular customer in the new store. A true creative is our Wendy, one of her own paintings sits in the top right hand corner of the photo below.
Looking over the top of my paintbox and resident cute panda painting, you can see the opposite corner of the shop where my husband, Bob, is painting. The gentleman off the right is a very patient customer. Through the door at the back, is the snug workshop. As lovely as the new/temporary premises are, the space is actually significantly smaller than the original store, but oh so light and airy...

Charles "Chuck" Lang working next to Bob on a painting of his own. Behind them are a lot of the antique frames that were saved from the nearly untouched basement of the original store.

My paint box, plus panda...

Bob near the main window of the store, showing the corner where I set up my paintbox. The little print rack and some of the prints it contained, were our gift to the store for the reopening.

I asked Wendy if she needed some paintings for the new blank walls and received a heartfelt YES. So Bob and I brought along some of our daily paintings for consignment. Chuck's paintings, including two of his unique banana ones, are in the top row; mine are in the middle; and four of Bob's landscapes are in the middle of the bottom row, flanked by two of Wendy's cats.

Bob painting...

The back wall of the new shop displayed photos of the fire, ones of better times of the staff, and newspaper articles about the fire... Chuck wanted to go and rub some of the ash behind each piece so people would look closely and say "wow, you can almost smell it!"

And while Wendy was showing visitors around the new store, Chuck gave others the '5 cent tour' of the burnt out old Art Corner building around the corner.

Right in front of the front entrance where the fish tank used to stand. I worried about that poor porcelain horse on the floor. All of his mates, small and large, were consumed, but he doesn't look too bad there. The pumpkin painting is one of Chuck's, and we joked that it had assumed a lot of appropriate character with its smoke and ash damage. It's still a sad loss though.

Looking to the right of the front door into the stock frames area and gallery exhibition wall. Sad to say the photo exhibit was lost. And you can still see the small frames I used to gleefully paw through during our visits.

A better view of the porcelain horsie...

As you stand in the door and face diagonally a bit to the left, this where the business bit took place. The lump in the centre is...was the laptop computer. All of the thin layers beneath the bench behind it are countless pieces of matting board. On the wall to the left, you can just make out the light areas where the molding corners were stacked hanging on the wall. Another one of Chuck's paintings rests against the front of the table. A box of his small works that used to adorn the front table was lost as well.

Facing from the front counter thru to the back of the shop where finishing epuipment once stood and all of the customers work for framing was filed. 10% was lost completely - some totally irreplacable; 40% had some varying damage from smoke or water, or both; and 50% were miraculously undamaged. Any loss is shocking, and my heart goes out to the people who lost a treasure - and give them thanks for their kind understanding.

This is one of Wendy's signature paintings that didn't quite make it. And behind that, I think, another one of Chuck's. There was also a really long, framed old photograph of the Great Salem Fire of June 25, 1914 in the old store. I spotted it in the backroom of the new shop: one end of the frame was pure charcoal, while the other end looked really good; the glass was smoke hazed and cracked, but the photo underneath didn't look too bad at first glance. I kidded Wendy that it now looked authentic, but glad that it survived.

Wendy and Chuck, and the people who work with them have been through a terrible experience and have fought upwards against the stream current to get their business back into shape. It has been a herioc effort, with the local businesses and regular customers pitching in to help.
The Salem Arts Association, in which Wendy was fundamental in helping recreate in recent years, is holding a "Toast"- to Benefit The Art Corner' on June 28. They can be contacted via their website at
Meanwhile, the new location for The Art Corner is open for business and raring to go. Look for more news and photos at their blog Drop in for a look see and say Hi.
Over all, the Grand Reopening was a great success with many customers bringing things in to be framed, stopping to chat and have a nibble on the food spread, and look over our shoulders and watch us paint. Many thanks to the chap who thoughtfully brought in the bottles of champagne. The relaunch was off to a roaring start...
See you there,

Labels: , , , , , ,


Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Wow, what a saga. Wishing all well for the renaissance!

11:59 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Rosemary!

Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for the well wishes for Chuck and Wendy. It was a shock for all of us, but after the intial event, they dug their heels in and powered forward. The Insurance companies haven't been too intractable either, thank heaven. :-D


9:09 AM  
Blogger Jim Belfiore said...

What a great write-up. We're sorry we missed the opening. If anyone can raise a phoenix from the ashes, Wendy and Chuck can.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Jim,

Thanks. Yeah, they're doing a great job and will go far. :-D

We got an ecstatic call from Wendy yesterday. Apparently one of her customers upped and purchased three of Bob's little landscape paintings! She's so chuffed, Bob's so chuffed, everyone's chuffed. Now we've got scramble to send up some replacements. :-D


6:50 AM  
Blogger Nelson said...

Re; the Salem Fire panoramic photos; I purchased them back about 1970. They had come out of a Lafayette St home & had poor storage. Some of the image had to be reglued. That they survived a 2nd time ia a real miracle. The fire exhibit WILL come back ! I have muh more to display. Look for my Salem Fire material to be used in an illustrated lecture in Feb or March, 2009.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Nelson,

Congrats on the photos surviving a second time! And cool on the illustrated lecture. Good luck with it. :-D

Thanks for stopping by.

10:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home