From Dollhouse to aRt Cottage

From Dollhouse to aRt Cottage

Senior project

Tucked away just a few blocks from downtown Concord is a quaint Art Gallery that proudly displays local artists works, some for sale, and offers a quiet studio for artists of all ages, including classes.  It’s called the aRt Cottage owned by Frogard Butler, a final destination of her life’s true passion.

Frogard Butler and family came to America from Germany via an ocean freighter to New Jersey. As a young girl, FRO dreamed of having her own doll house and doing whatever she wanted in it.   She shared small furniture for homemade doll houses with her two sisters and played with it in their attic. But she never had one all to herself.

She entered college at SF State as an art major.  She loved theatre and studio art classes.   Then she married while still in college, had three children, and found herself teaching and directing a pre-school for over 20 years.  She felt sidetracked.  “I always found myself in the art corner enjoying helping three to five-year-olds create their masterpieces,” she recalls.

Once her children were grown, she returned back to college and became an art “junkie” taking all the studio courses she could, first at College of San Mateo and then later Diablo Valley College.  She was completely absorbed in ceramics, watercolor, acrylics, oil painting, figure drawing, mono prints, and exploring mixed media at DVC.

FRO began to show her work in venues around Contra Costa County in store fronts, restaurants, and entering art competitions.   She spent a lot of time at the Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center showing her work and participating in the Gallery being a docent.  “It was there that I learned how to run a Gallery and have studio space to conduct classes.  It became a monthly routine for me to go to Santa Cruz.”

Years later, when the new library in Walnut Creek opened, she applied for the wall space at the Bedford Gallery.  “I curated my own show and called it “From Here to There and Back Again”.   Her work included a large diptych of Mt. Diablo which was surrounded by paintings of favorite places around the world which I had visited.  Mt. Diablo sold for $2,000.  “I was on my way!”

She wanted her own studio though.  In 2011, she purchased an old fruit-pickers bungalow, built in 1925.  “I had 888 sq ft. to use as I please for creating my works.”    That was the beginning of the aRt Cottage, FRO finally had her “dollhouse.”

fro with flowersShe was happier at the aRt Cottage than her own Pleasant Hill Home.  “Concord felt comfortable for me.  The more work I put into the garden and curb appeal, the more the place became mine,” she says.  “I had a cozy place to make my art and spend the night if I chose to.”

Soon two elementary students would come after school.  That summer she hosted a program for children.  A senior church group came and had watercolor classes.  Boy scouts came and worked on an art merit badge.  A seven-year-old chose to have her birthday party and booked it at the aRt Cottage.  Instead of games and prizes, the children had a thematic party and made an art project to go along with their “under the sea” party.

It was time for a gallery show opening.  In Feb. 2012, she invited 14 artists to paint directly on the wall.  Areas were taped off and the artists chose their own areas and created their own paintings.

“It was all so wonderful and fun to see blank walls develop into to real art on the wall.  “On the Wall” became the name of aRt Cottage show complete with artists reception and an open house.  From that time on, aRt Cottage has held shows and receptions monthly.

Joanne Zehrung“I love promoting local artists as well as helping those who want to learn how to use different mediums to create a painting or a piece of ceramics. “ FRO says.  “I ask them what they like or want to do and help them to find an avenue to get their and do it.  If it becomes a struggle and is not fun, we move on and find something that is.”

aRt Cottage is a place where children and adults love to create.  They tell me what it is they want to do and we find a way to do it.  I consider myself more a mentor and cheerleader.  “Everyone who comes to aRt Cottage has a special stake in the place.  I call it ‘R’ Cottage for that reason.”

Sophia  Jaline  The aRt Cottage is located at 2238 Mt. Diablo Street in Concord opened Tuesday – Friday 11-5;Saturday 1-5.  Classes are $15 each including materials, and arranged to meet your schedule. “People ask me how I can afford to do it so cheaply.  My response is ‘It is not always about money.’   If I get enough to keep the lights on, pay taxes and insurance, then I am content.”   aRt Cottage also receives donations of paper, acrylic paint, old brushes, watercolor paper, watercolor paint, glazes, and anything that can be used for projects.  Now, we all can enjoy her “dollhouse”.  For more information please go to artcottage.info.