At Barts Fine Arts and Custom Framing, opened in June by siblings Sean and Danielle Barts, the company reaches out to customers with the slogan, “You name it, we’ll frame it.”
A quick scan on social media indicates they live up to that saying. Movie posters, portraits, sports jerseys and memorabilia, even swords, have been the subjects of recent works by the Main Street Wendell shop.
A project the Bartses completed Aug. 23 is one of the most historic they have ever framed, and it wasn’t for a customer. The 40-by-24-inch shadow-box display is a memorial to the Bartses’ late grandfather, Major Victor Terrelonge, who a Tuskegee Airman during World War II – one of the first class of African-American military pilots in the United States Armed Forces.
“He was extremely proud,” Sean Barts said of his grandfather, who passed away in 2011 at age 88. “He was active in the community – he did high school tours just to bring awareness and teach kids about who (the Airmen) were and what they did. He didn’t talk about it to us much, but whenever we did ask about it you were in for a long story.”
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The shadow box is a busy one. It features a photo of Terrelonge in uniform joined with a more recent photo of him; a bronze replica of his Congressional Gold Medal, which was presented to him and fellow Airmen in 2007; wings and an identification patch from his uniform and three Tuskegee Airmen patches.
It also includes an American Flag; several items of military memorabilia and medals honoring the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen; a book opened to a page about the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site; his invitation to the 36th annual Tuskegee Airmen awards gala and his pocket knife.
“As a black man in America, that’s a very momentous thing to be considered such a hero,” Barts said. “Of course, it wasn’t until years later after the war they got the recognition they deserved.”
Deciding what to do with an old box of Terrelonge’s heirlooms after his death came easy for the Barts siblings.
After their father passed away in August, 2014, Danielle Barts said they first considered liquidating the framing business he left behind.
“Considering the volume of his inventory and his customers, we decided to carry out his legacy,” Danielle Barts said.
In opting to continue the business and give it a new home in Wendell, the duo had all the means necessary to turn their grandfather’s belongings into a lasting piece of art.
“What better way to put (the memorabilia) to use than figure out some creative way to showcase it,” Sean Barts said. “A lot of people have had family members who have been in wars and have memorabilia that’s just sitting in boxes, so why not showcase it?
“And its a feeling of pride when you walk past it say, hey, that’s my grandfather.”
For now, the plan is to keep the shadow box at the Wendell shop. Sean Barts said it may give customers who come from military backgrounds new ideas.
“Some family could walk in who had a son in Desert Storm who might say, hey, we have all this stuff, I’d love to do something like this,” he said.