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Gallery blossoms in Gate City’s southwest corner

by Jordan Green

‘“There’s never a day that I wake up and say, ‘Shoot, I don’t want to go to work today,”” Edward Coultress says. ‘“We totally enjoy seeing our customers. Anyone who doesn’t, doesn’t work here long.’”

Last November, Coultress quietly opened an art gallery in the back of his gift store at Sedgefield Crossing Shopping Center near the southwestern boundary of the Gate City. The gallery, a warren of cream-colored walls that disappear into thin air where the crown molding gives way to exposed maroon-painted ductwork, came about because of the increasing success of his gift business.

The popular Vera Bradley handbags and other sought-after gift items had begun to crowd out the paintings that once lined the walls of Coultress’ Hang-Ups Art and Frame Store, so it was time to give the art its own space. He gutted the ceilings in the back rooms, space that formerly housed administrative offices for Kerr Drug.

Coultress, a 56-year-old former cop, opened the gift store in 1999, but picture framing is his long-held passion. He’s been framing for about 25 years. A native Californian, Coultress landed a job with the Greensboro Police Department in 1973. He was involved in an auto accident during a high-speed chase in the line of duty in 1986 that put an end to his law enforcement career. The framing business was a natural sequel.

‘“I started doing picture framing in 1980,’” he says. ‘“I never took a class. As far as coordinating colors I’ve been very lucky to have a good eye for it.’”

On his workbench two quilted pieces by Jacquelyn Mooney, a New Orleans artist currently serving as an artist-in-residence at Bennett College, hold his attention. The pieces each in their way project a shimmering collage of rough-cut humanity. One shows a clutch of multi-hued arms and hands reaching to the sky, along with a dancing figure. It contains the text: ‘“Adversity doesn’t build character; adversity reveals character.’” The other is a study of flowers with a vaguely defined human figure.

Coultress says Mooney doesn’t give her quilts titles when she brings them to him for framing, so he’ll probably just call the latter piece ‘“Flowers and Man.’”

‘“Jacquelyn was looking for someone to use more creative colors for her,’” he says. ‘“She gives us the quilt and she never tells us how to frame it. This one is going to be shadow boxed. It’s solid black suede.’”

He retreats to a long hallway that runs between the workshop and the gallery and selects a piece of sleek, black molding from a bin. He switches on a Power Miter saw set to a 45-degree angle and makes quick work of cutting the four sides for the frame.

An underpinner, a kind of industrial stapler used for joining frames, will be put to service for assembling the frame. Each side of the frame contains a lip that will hold in place thin strips of wood covered by black suede. The strips, in turn, will create a tight fit for a sheet of glass that encase the quilt. Taken together the pieces will help give Mooney’s art a sense of depth and softness.

Coultress also showcases the work of Larry Coble, a native Greensboro artist who paints pastels. One piece entitled ‘“White Shirt’” shows a spotless blouse that might be worn by a chef, which is hung over a body form with a spray of flower emanating from the collar. Others are studies of various flowers, including ‘“Irises’” and ‘“Orchids.’”

‘“He is probably one of the best at shading,’” Coultress says. ‘“He’s in a wheelchair. It hasn’t slowed him down. He had a floral business. He did parties for Ross Perot.’”

Other paintings in the gallery have no particular connection to Greensboro. Coultress frequents art shows and brings back painting for the gallery. There are the pastoral Tuscan scenes painted by an artist named Aldo Mozo, and an impressionistic oil painting of a bustling marketplace in an unnamed European city called ‘“Streets of the City’” by an artist identified as J. Daveau. Thrown in for good measure is an enlarged duplication of the Daily Tar Heel newspaper’s special edition to celebrate UNC’s 2005 NCAA championship.

‘“I’m looking to help you find a nice piece of art for six hundred or seven hundred dollars ‘—’ framed,’” Coultress says. ‘“I’d rather make a little money off a lot of people than make a lot of money off a few people. Not that I don’t like money but I’d like people to get a nice product for a decent price.’”

Coultress doesn’t deny that his location on High Point Road is counterintuitive ‘—’ not the hippest stretch of Greensboro, Sedgefield Crossing Shopping Center is probably best known for the $2 Cinemas, a US Postal Service branch and a nearby Burger King ‘— but Coultress points out that the affluent communities of Sedgefield and Adams Farm are nearby.

‘“We’ve had people say they don’t expect to see something so nice around here,’” he says. ‘“We get approached all the time about moving to Battleground Avenue. I think that would be a disservice to our customer base.’”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com.

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