by RONA MANN
The pontificater is Jim Reinhart, owner, caretaker, and according to his business card, “Head Poohbah” of Wall Street Gallery, a state of the art custom framing establishment located just a wee bit off the beaten path in downtown Madison. Truth be known, Reinhart should be called a “curator,” because Wall Street Gallery is all about museum quality work; and indeed, this unusual and talented man oversees and protects the art within. It is his talent. It is his mission. And he’s proud to have made it his life’s work for nearly 40 years.
He didn’t start out in life to frame art; rather he intended to work in the field of planning and design. Reinhart initially earned a Master’s degree in Architecture, but never really traveled that career path. Instead, “I was drawn to a 1740 house on the corner and set about restoring it.” I had a partner in that effort who was endeavoring to start a career picture framing, but found out quickly that he hated it. And I found I loved it!”
Subsequently, Jim Reinhart traveled to San Francisco where he studied under the famous French picture framer, Paul Frederick, who established the very first school for that specialized art: The Picture Framing Academy. Working closely with the master for a month was a start, but never enough. Jim has participated in numerous seminars over the years and still manages to stay on top of his craft by continuing to educate himself. “Conservation and preservation techniques change regularly,” he informs. “Materials, the quality of those materials, hinging, technique…they are all constantly evolving.”
Where once the shortcut process of framing might have involved buying a prefabricated frame at a discount store, pulling off the cardboard backing, removing the photo of Tab Hunter or Rosalind Russell, inserting the photo, and replacing the cardboard, that has all changed for those who truly want to preserve what they frame. “It was found that the corrugated cardboard product contains acid that leads to the deterioration of the image or artwork,” Reinhart instructs.
Wall Street Gallery not only produces museum quality work, but is a veritable museum unto itself. There’s a small gallery off the main room which from time to time showcases different artists’ work, although the true focus of the establishment is the main room which houses…well, choices. And there are many! Choices of matting, choices of moulding, choices of wood, gold leaf, metal leaf, fabric, flat painting, hand stamping, crackle finish painting…it goes on and on. “But we don’t ever want to overwhelm our customers,” Reinhart cautions. We talk. I find out what they want, where it will be hung, the decor and style of that room. I get a real feel for them and the piece, and then I try to show them samples that will help narrow it down to just two or three choices. That seems to work well for everyone.”
Over the years Jim has gone from being a one man band to where he now has a small support staff. “They are wonderful,” he brags unabashedly. They each bring something different to the mix in talent and experience, which frees me up to do what I do best.”
And what Jim Reinhart does best is conserve, preserve, and showcase that which is important and significant to others. “We did a piece in which a woman brought in locks of hair of family members from every generation. They had to be sewn onto a mat, then we had a calligrapher come in and add the names. It was arranged according to the genealogy of that family. We did it like a family tree. I truly enjoyed that project.”
But it appears everything Reinhart does he enjoys. “I really love working with shadowboxes because it’s more fun than just two dimensional art. We’ve done a few golf balls that were responsible for a coveted hole in one. And we’ve done numerous autographed baseballs for clients. I keep telling my staff I just hope we never have to frame a bowling ball!”
What Reinhart is most proud of is the fact that Wall Street Gallery designs many of their own frame samples right on premises in their backroom workshop. Half finished sketches and pieces of assorted materials line the work tables. Jim points proudly to three complete wall displays of the gallery’s own design work, affording the customer a multitude of choice: of style, texture, historic period, or just plain fun.
And Reinhart has made fun very much a part of this business. This “museum” is not about hushed tones, and the curator is a bonafide “character” who likes to laugh, has a twinkle in his eye, and a biting, yet healthy sense of humor. “Host a Family Reunion on Your Wall,” advises one sign. “Fear No Art” headlines the poster on the front door. And all about there are photos of famous recording artists, slightly irreverent pokes at political figures, and double entendres, themselves framing sophisticated equipment like the chopper which cuts perfect 45 degree angles, the underpinner which joins the parts of a frame with two small pins, or the computer that cuts mats, eliminating the once essential mat knife.
The choice of glass employed at Wall Street Gallery is either Conservation or Museum Glass, both with the necessary UV protection Jim Reinhart insists on, just as he insists on that museum quality for any project he handles, regardless of its price.
The photos of beloved grandparents now passed on, the images of a child’s first day of school, the golf ball that made you hole in one champ at the club, the key to your first home, the baby shoes, a treasured piece of needlepoint, the one piece of really expensive art you treasure…all constitute your bank of life’s memories. Frames may be physically constructed of wood or tile or metal, but in truth frames are made of memories. Memories that people cherish and want to preserve. Memories that define a life well lived and people well loved. Memories that are personal and precious to those who are fortunate enough to have lived them, and memories that must be kept safe, as though they were indeed housed in a museum. The curator of Wall Street Gallery knows and understands that what he carefully, skillfully, and lovingly puts within those shadowboxes or frames in handcrafted tile or Italian inlaid wood is very personal and special to every customer he has the privilege to serve. That’s why Jim Reinhart comes to work every day, and why he continues to do that work with a perpetual smile on his face.
Jim Reinhart is right. He doesn’t need to buy a lottery ticket…ever.
He is a very rich man.
Wall Street Gallery may be found where Bradley Road meets Wall Street in downtown Madison
Go look for it…the best “museums” are worth finding!
www.extremeframing.com (203) 245-2912