Somewhere in the future, when they look at the history of Kerrville, it might be 2020 that’s looked upon as a time when so much happened, and when the city was transformed into a destination place for the arts.
For decades, the Arcadia Theater was one of the focal points of life in downtown Kerrville, bringing people in for vaudeville shows in its early days and then to movies, but it’s now been closed for so long that it’s hard to remember that it was once a viable entertainment venue.
That changes in 2020. Taking the shell of the historic project, the founders of Arcadia Live — a nonprofit group with backing from the city and other philanthropic organizations in Kerrville — aimed to reinvent the space in several ways, including:
“You get a feeling of its history, because of its size,” said Ann Overby, one of the key drivers of the movement to restore the space. “The front door is so tiny and the entry is so small that most people drive by it don’t know that it’s back there.”
It’s hard to miss now. When completed, the Arcadia Live project will have two marquee signs that tout the theater’s long history — although the theater has been closed since 1988. The front marquee will celebrate the theater’s early history, while the iconic neon sign that was installed in the 1940s is now affixed to the back of the building, but commands a view of those crossing the river into downtown.
Just what will the space be used for? Well, the opening acts for the grand opening — expected sometime later this year — will be Americana acts Robert Earl Keen and Cody Canada and The Departed.
Now, the finishing touches are being put on the space, including smoothing out the once sloping floor from the time when it was a movie house, and finishing the deck that overlooks the river. It’s the deck that could help change the way Kerrville views itself — one that celebrates the river.
The new space also gives Kerrville, along with Kerr County, yet another performance space downtown. Just around the corner, of course, is the Cailloux Theater — a gem that would be the envy of many small towns.
However, the planners of Arcadia Live see the two buildings complementing each other.
“I think we’ll have a different kind of music,” Overby said. “We are going to be very respectful of their calendar. I think (the two spaces) will draw even more people to downtown Kerrville.”
She’s been tasked with framing a handwritten letter written by George Washington, a pair of jeans owned by George Strait, a Rolling Stones guitar, and even some “computer guts” sourced from a top-secret computer. In addition to the unique, rare and unusual, she’s also done framing and shadowboxing on hundreds of family heirlooms, artifacts and sentimental items.
Debbie Wilson of River’s Edge Gallery in downtown Kerrville has definitely mastered the art of framing.
Wilson first discovered her love for framing and design years ago in her hometown of Poway, California. Her next move was to Vegas, where she continued to hone her skills and met her husband, Mike. The Wilsons moved to Kerrville in 2000, then combined their artistic talents to open River’s Edge Gallery. In recent years, they have expanded into an adjacent storefront, tastefully creating a spacious 20,000-square-foot combined gallery, frame shop and workshop.
Wilson’s clients come to her online, as store visitors and via personal referrals from her vast list of satisfied customers. When each framing request comes in, she begins with a customer consultation.
“The first step, and most important, involves the selection of colors, textures, frames and matting. I then do a preliminary layout so they can envision the final piece,” she said.
All work is done in her on-site workshop, and considerable time and patience go into each job. She claims it’s all fun. Details are essential to Wilson, who is quite the perfectionist when it comes to her work.
“This is my form of doing art, so I’m very exact in each design,” she said. “I’ll hand stitch items to affix, use silicone cement to fasten metal objects onto fabric mats, position frames inside of frames and go for a distinctive look. Depending upon the complexity, a piece may take weeks to finish.”
She loves thinking outside the box and using new technology that will preserve each piece for generations. She’s framed jewelry, coins, kimonos, wedding memorabilia and even a full-size Native American ceremonial outfit. She sees every piece as a new challenge. Wilson takes pride in knowing that her work can be seen in homes, businesses and public places throughout the U.S. and abroad.
“Military pieces, especially from World War I and II, are exciting for me and offer a way to immortalize someone’s service to our country,” Wilson said. “I can include photos, medals, uniforms, badges, insignias, handguns and even entire uniforms. These treasures don’t belong in a box on a shelf; they need to be displayed. It’s an honor to turn these into custom masterpieces to be enjoyed and cherished.”
“I also love doing shadow boxing — a complex process,” she continued. “I have to think how deep the frame should be, what glass to use and how to line the box so the glass doesn’t fall down or rest on the artwork. Measurements are so essential to ensure everything fits into the right place.”
“I use only real wood frames, everything from burl wood to cherry and oak,” Wilson said. “Which glass to use is also an important part of the frame job. The glass world has changed a lot. I love — and use extensively — museum anti-reflective glass. It may cost more, but it is worth every bit. We also carry conservation glass that keeps the light from fading the artwork.”
All the moulding is put together in the store, allowing her to measure and adjust during the process.
“Precut materials don’t provide the same quality,” she said.
Pricing varies for each job, but “we let the customer know all their options and prices up front to help them make the right decisions.”
Some clients request assistance with art that is tarnished, damaged or has cracked frames. Using the newest technology, Wilson and husband Mike restore and refinish the art — even bronzes.
Satisfaction was written over Wilson’s face as she explained, “The happy smiles when people see their finished pieces make it all worthwhile. Some people even cry. I love my job.”