Monday, July 30, 2012

Flagrant Self Promotion

I had a conversation with Susan Moffet-Thomas, Director of Swiss Bear Development Corporation, and she asked me to send her our story so she could put it on her Swiss Bear Blog.

Here is a copy of what I wrote!

Jan and Michael Francoeur set off on an adventure shortly after their marriage in 1982. Michael accepted a job in Aspen, Colorado and off they went. Jan had been working in commercial art for many years and attending art fairs on the weekends. She attended shows like  the Toledo Art Museum May Show, the Spring Show at Crosley Gardens, shows in Charlevoix, Adrian, Bay City, Midland, Saugatuck, and was a featured artist on the ArtTrain.

After moving to Aspen she worked in the Art Dept of the award winning Aspen Times and began her freelance career doing architectural renderings. After six years in the mountains their adventure continued as they traveled through the southern tier of states and settled in the Florida Keys, for a time, where they started looking for a new home. Their criteria included a place that "was on it's way but hasn't gotten there yet", on the water, a beautiful setting, interesting architecture and an interest in the arts. They wrote to every likely looking place in North and South Carolina and after a casual conversation with one of their neighbors in the Keys, New Bern was added to the list.

Their inquiries resulted in different responses from the areas they wrote to, some no response and others more. "New Bern filled our mail box up!". After reading about the Chamber of Commerce, the Craven Arts Council, Swiss Bear and the Tourist Assn (this was before the TDA was established) New Bern was the one that most piqued their curiosity. They arrived in 1989 in a motor home and soon traded it in on a boat. They were the 2nd boat at the newly constructed Ramada Inn (now BridgePointe) Marina, where they lived for 3 years.

Michael started a marine repair business and Jan worked at various part-time jobs and opened a studio on Middle Street in the old Albert Hotel.

She began drawing and painting New Bern. Eventually Michael closed his business and joined Jan at Carolina Creations.

They purchased a home in the historic district in 1992 and renovated it and after renting a space for Carolina Creations for 14 years they purchased their current location in 2002 (the former Chinese Restaurant and before that The Metropolitan Club). Partnering with MBF architects they renovated the building and turned it into a commercial condominium.

Jan continued to expand her art business and became interested in doing ceramic tiles as well. After a short time Michael joined her and began making pottery himself.

Early on Jan was awarded "Entrepreneur of the Year" and through the years many other awards including Niche Magazines Top 100 American Craft Galleries in the US followed by Top 25 American Craft Galleries. Each year since 2005 Carolina Creations has been awarded "Best Place to Buy Art and Sculpture" and "Best Place to Buy Gifts" in New Bern by Sun Journal readers and an Emerging Artists Grant from the Craven County Arts Council and the NC Arts Council.

In addition to their own work, Carolina Creations, represents 300 local, regional and nationally known artists. Other local artists represented include Lou Plummer, Tim Rader, Sally Sutton, Mary Page Whitley, Andree Richmond, Mike Rooney, Shirley Erikkeson and many others.

The gallery is well known for its high quality offerings, and Jan and Michaels work. Each year since 1995 Jan has designed and produced a New Bern Christmas ornament, some of the New Bern scenes depicted include the New Bern Skyline, Tryon Palace and Tryon Palace Gates, the New Bern Flag, City Hall, Craven County Court House and others. This years ornament will be the Bank of the Arts with a portion of each sale going to the Council toward their renovations.

She creates a New Bern Christmas card each year and is the poster artist for the Historic Home Tour.

Their "Celebration Pottery" is popular as gifts for weddings, anniversaries and just about any occasion.

The Francoeur's built a new home on a vacant lot in the historic district in 2007 contributing to the ever evolving New Bern skyline. It has been said that in 30 years their home will be a "contributing structure" in the district.

Great promoters of New Bern's Downtown they have served on the Swiss Bear Board, Chamber of Commerce Board, Chairman of the Downtown Christmas Committee, and have been active in the Downtown Council of the New Bern Chamber of Commerce.  Jan is the creator and administrator of the Downtown New Bern Facebook Page and Blog where she promotes anything going on in our Downtown.

Jan says "Our Downtown today has become what we envisioned when we arrived here in 1989!"


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