Flooded with acts of kindness

ART

Gallery's back in business just a month after deluge

August 10, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Nancy Graboski thought the world was ending last month when a sudden torrential downpour flooded the Beveled Edge, her Mount Washington gallery and custom frame shop.

In the space of about 10 minutes, the swirling waters rose to a height of 2 feet inside the shop and sent Graboski and her assistant, Day Watts, scurrying up the stairs to the building's second floor with paintings and drawings in their arms in a desperate effort to save customers' artworks.

"We looked out the window and there was water as far as I could see," Graboski recalled of those first terrifying moments. "We were thinking we'd have to go up on the roof, but then the rain slowed, and the water started to recede. Day lost her car, which was totally under water. But, thankfully, no one was hurt. And we were able to save the artwork."

The next morning, however, Graboski was "still in shock" and wondering whether she could go on. Then another unexpected outpouring - this time from friends and family, who offered their hands, hearts and minds in support - persuaded her not to give up.

Over the next few weeks they mucked out the gallery on Falls Road and repaired the damage to Graboski's production facility on Union Avenue, which had also been wiped out by the July 7 flood.

As a result, today, a month after the disaster, Graboski is open for business again - in a new space, in a new building - and feeling on higher ground than ever.

"It's been like a barn-raising," Graboski says. "All that energy kept me going. It made me realize what a beautiful community this little art and framing gallery had created."

Fortunately, Graboski had just signed a lease on a new place when the flood occurred. So she had somewhere to go, even though it wasn't nearly ready to receive her.

"We had to start from scratch, getting the place dry-walled, painted, etc.," Graboski says. "We did that in about three weeks' time. Even my accountant came down and helped paint. We managed to get the place in pretty good shape by Saturday, when we reopened, and we sold our first piece there that day. I thought that was kind of a good sign."

Still, things are apt to be a bit dicey for a while, Graboski says.

"We need to get back on our feet," she adds. "The next four to eight weeks will be critical for us. People need to know where we are, that we're even better than before and that the spirit of community has totally carried us forward."

Graboski purchased the Beveled Edge in 1998. Before that she founded and worked for the Maryland Women Platform for Action, a now-defunct local nonprofit group that lobbied for women's rights. She didn't know anything about the framing business but she was sure that she was "looking for something entrepreneurial." When she found a shop that was for sale, "I jumped right in," she says.

The original business, a frame studio that had no art gallery attached, was on Union Avenue. Two years later, Graboski opened the combined art gallery and frame shop at 5909 Falls Road but kept the Union Avenue place as a workshop. The gallery remained on Falls Road until the flood last month.

Graboski says she loves her work because it allows her to combine many different talents, "from production to marketing to people skills."

But the most rewarding experiences involve the bond she establishes with her customers, she says.

"When someone brings in something to be framed, it's always because it means something to them," she says. "They're bringing me things I have to care for, and even though it's an object, it carries emotional meaning for them. So that's how we treat it - as something invaluable."

The gallery's summer group show, on view through Sept. 15, presents works by Sheep Jones, Jay Wolf Schlossberg-Cohen, Murray Goodsett, Steve Matthews, Lynn Rybicki, Kim Weekly, Dominique Samyn Werbrouck, Ray Book, Roy Ysla, Allegra Marquart and Gina Falcone Skelton.

Summer Show

What: Works by 11 artists

Where: The Beveled Edge, 5616 Newbury St., in Mount Washington Village

When: Through Sept. 15

Call: 410-235-9282

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