“I’m looking for the unknown,” she said, sitting inside her narrow galleries on West Main Street next to the Redwood Inn. “There’s a lot of artists that are scared to bring their stuff to a gallery. Who am I to say their art isn’t good enough to show?”
Indeed, the walls of the shotgun-style store are hung with hundreds of framed and unframed paintings, photographs and mixed media works, mostly by previously unknown artists from the region. Friedel’s own abstract paintings are included in the collection, which also features wearable art such as handbags and jewelry. Sculptures line the walls.
“I just want people to appreciate art,” she said. “So many people don’t, and Fort Wayne is not really the art capital of the world. But our artists are just as good as any you find” in larger cities.
In a way, Friedel’s Fine Art is a classic labor of love. Friedel and her husband, Justin, run the gallery, which is usually only open during the week, because the husband-and-wife team work for Walmart distribution hub during the weekends, pulling 12-hour shifts while also raising their four children. The gallery has a small apartment at the back, where the kids can hang out after school while the gallery is open.
“We looked (at opening the gallery) southwest, but the prices downtown were better. I love bringing art to this neighborhood and downtown,” she said.
Marjorie Friedel’s own artwork is also for sale, and the self-taught artist specializes in otherworldly fusions of colors and lines.
“I just have an eye for colors,” she said. “When I start something, I never know where it’s going to end up. My dad, George Morgan, drew when I was little. I kind of picked up stuff off of him.”
Friedel’s uses social media to bring in customers and to alert them to art openings. “I use as much free advertising as I can,” she said. And while it’s been slow catching on, the gallery’s owners say they didn’t expect it to take off like gangbusters in a down economy.
“Most of our sales are jewelry,” she said. “Everybody wants a deal. A lot of people are very careful with money. We’re trying to get as many pieces in as possible. People like a good selection.”
Friedel began offering “painting and wine” classes in March for novices and advanced artists alike. She also has raised money for local Alzheimer’s groups.
“I want to be able to do as much as we can,” she said. “We only (represent) local artists. The money goes back into the community. We’re not going to do it any other way.”