Sunday, July 23, 2017

Article in the New Bern Sun Journal

Thank you Sun Journal for this nice article!

Cultural icon retires from retail, continues artistry

Sun Journal Staff

Jan Francoeur, left, and Virginia Spencer, recently hosted ArtWalk at Carolina Creations on Polloock Street, where Spencer is the new owner. Francoeur, who opened the business 27 years ago, remains as the resident artist. [CHARLIE HALL / SUN JOURNAL]

One of the origins of cultural fabric for downtown New Bern – Carolina Creations – is changing hands after nearly three decades.

Jan Fancoeur, a New Bern artistic icon who opened the longest-lasting art-related shop, has decided to retire as a store owner – although she will remain as the resident artist for Creations, 317 Pollock St.

The new owner is Virginia Spencer, who has lived in North Carolina since 1981.

“I have fallen in love with the New Bern area,” she said. “We have fabulous artists in our proximity as well as many talented artists within our state and our country. Carolina Creations has been my favorite store for quite some time and I am so pleased at the opportunity to take the reins.”

Francoeur has been not only bedrock of downtown retail and culture, but a mover and shaker in the overall art perspective that now permeates the core area.

She was around for the beginnings of MumFest, now the largest outdoor festival in the area.

She and friend Carol Tokarski, executive director of the Craven Arts Council, were instrumental in getting art into downtown, beginning a decade ago with Dickens of a Christmas murals in store windows, which eventually evolved into a month-long downtown holiday celebration.

“Jan’s gallery was the first to really invest in downtown New Bern; in effect, she was instrumental in creating the city’s art district,” said Tokarski, adding that Francoeur “has that rare combination of outstanding artistic ability and business and marketing sense that is critical to giving art a strong place.”

Francoeur first opened her shop on Middle Street and later moved to the first of two locations on Pollock Street.

“I have had the privilege to meet and work with hundreds of amazing artists and wonderful customers through the years, many of whom have become dear friends,” she said. “I’m ready to go back to being a full-time artist.”

She said that there were some rumors that she was leaving New Bern.

“I’m not going anywhere. My studio will still be just a block away from Carolina Creations. I will still be the featured artist at Carolina Creations and do all the pottery and paintings you’ve become accustomed to from me as well as the custom paintings, house portraits, baby sets, platters and tiles.”

Meanwhile, the new owner’s background has been quite varied, with focuses on pharmaceutical sales, retail florist, nursing, and five years as an officer in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

“As a florist, I studied and produced floral arts, earning recognition as a member of the American Institute of Floral Design,” Spencer said. “I look forward to moving on to a new challenge. My priority is to learn the business of Carolina Creations and become familiar with its operations. I want to meet the artists who have their art in our shop and look for a few new ones.”

She said that employees who have been a part of the shop will remain on board.

“New perspectives are sure to bring about change. I plan to seek new opportunities to share our art. But, please be assured that we will continue to deliver the same quality you have grown to expect from Carolina Creations,” she said. “Please share with me ideas you may have regarding your favorite art medium and any special areas where you are seeking just the right touch. I want to find the right artist to share your vision.”

Francoeur, whose designs grace many covers such as the annual homes tour guide, said she will continue to design her annual holiday ornament, calendars and Christmas cards.

“The difference is that I’ll have more time to create so you’ll be seeing more new work from me more often,” she added.

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