Just Folk

The newest retail Mecca to grace Lillie Avenue in Summerland is the brainchild of Hollywood television producers Susan Baerwald and Marcy Carsey. Both are passionate collectors of folk art and independently decided that when they grew up they wanted to be surrounded with things that made them smile. With that passion in mind they conceived an American Folk Art Gallery; it’s called “ Just Folk” and it opened its doors with a special pre-opening event for family and friends on Saturday June 9, followed up with a grand opening for the public on June 16.

The pre-opening festivities featured Mondial hors d’oeuvres, wine and spirits, a live American Folk Music trio. Well over 100 friends and new patrons arrived between 4 and 9 PM to check out the art and Brian Cearnal’s cleverly designed space. According to architect Cearnal, the project was designed “to feel like three buildings stepping up the hill.” It was important to the owners and design team that the Lillie streetscape be welcoming with a traditional front porch and rustic charm to match the goods inside. “It was also important,” added Brian, “that the Varley streetscape reflect a traditional and quiet residential character.”

Owners Marcy and Susan wanted the building to be ‘green,” so Cearnal incorporated a photovoltaic array on the roof of the “middle building” and utilized recyclable and sustainable materials wherever possible. He recycled, for example, brick from the original Mary Kay Prentice house that was demolished on the site. The eclectic combination of styles and building materials is delightful, and the interior volumes offer abundant light and space in which to display the fanciful one-of-a-kind folk art.

General Manager Kathleen Ousley points out that, “some of the inventory includes step-back cupboards in colors from the early twentieth century, trunks, sea chests painted chairs, and many unusual quilts.” She noted the unique African American quilts a la Gee’s Bends, a traveling exhibit that features the work of three generations of Alabama Women; there are Mennonite and Amish quilts as well. Also available in the two-story showroom gallery (complete with an elevator) were tables of various sizes, from farm to country side tables to wood dining tables. The whimsical spirit was apparent in a six-foot-tall tin sheriff, a pig made out of a whiskey barrel, and sculpted animals by the dozens. Just Folk also carries handcrafted toys created for children before mass marketed toys were available, homemade rocking horses, pull toys, games, and dolls.

The paintings they carry, all original and some with big price tags are from Outsider Artists, those who are untaught, some who have developmental disabilities, others who are incarcerated in mental hospitals or just naïve and untrained, unexposed to art in the conventional sense. Ms Baerwald suggests the paintings “are the freshest and most astonishing depictions to the way the artists look at the world.” Just Folk also carries many pieces by black artists from the Deep South whose work is just beginning to be collected, such as folk carvings, utilitarian hand-made tools, and pulleys.

The significance of their ‘pig” logo which graces the tin roof is simply due to the fact that Susan loves pigs and has been collecting them for years. Just Folk, 2346 Lillie Avenue, Summerland (justfolk@cox.net or 805-969-7118)