Grace Meibohm ’83 always knew that she would have a career in the art field. Even before she was tall enough to see over the top of the counter of the art shop that has been in her family for three generations.
“I always felt that art was the right fit; some things you just know,” Meibohm said. “I worked in our family’s business, Meibohm Fine Arts, throughout high school, when I had taken art courses, so I knew I wanted to continue on in the field. I’m really thrilled to be carrying on the business my grandfather started.”
Her grandfather, Carl H. Meibohm, was a photographer at the 1901 Pan American Exposition, and opened the original location of their art shop on Buffalo’s West Side that same year.
When Carl passed away in 1957, his son Walter, Grace’s father, decided that it was time to move the shop into a suburban setting. Since they had family roots in the southtowns, they chose East Aurora.
“It’s such an artistic community,” added Meibohm, who took over the shop after her father’s passing.
“I knew when I went to Daemen to pursue my art degree that art would be my career – art was in my blood.” In addition to her father and grandfather, her father’s sister, Edna Lindemann, was the founding director of the Burchfield Center, later to be the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. While Grace came from such an artistic background, her parents never influenced her or insisted that she choose art as her profession (so she could take over the business); Grace chose the art field because she really enjoyed it.
When it came time to look at colleges, she wanted to stay local so she could keep in touch with the family business. Grace was drawn to Daemen by the small class sizes, teachers who were working artists, and the personal attention the teachers gave.
“I got to know my teachers well,” she said. “There are terrific instructors at Daemen.” Some of the teachers she remembers fondly include James Kuo, an art professor and renowned artist who taught design and watercolor, and Sister Jeanne File, who founded the art department, and taught art history.
“The whole department was terrific,” exclaimed Grace. Some of her other instructors she recalled included Jim Allen; Bruce Marzahn; Carol Townsend; and Dennis Barraclough – who still teaches at Daemen today.
“The instructors worked together and it’s still a wonderful department.” She added, “It’s exciting that the College is continuing to grow, that they are recognizing the art department and that it is going to get some special space.”
That space is the new Daemen Visual & Performing Arts Center, which will give new life to the former Marian Library. When completed, the arts center will give Daemen art faculty and students the physical space to reach great artistic heights.
Although Grace lived close enough to commute, she chose dormitory residence to have the total campus experience. “Working late in the art studio was much better when you just had to walk across campus.”
She added that she still keeps in touch with a number of classmates and has been back to the school on occasion since she graduated. “I’ve been back for some of the art exhibits; they’ve done a wonderful job with the art gallery.”
Grace added that an art student has many options. “There are so many different careers in art, you don’t just have to be an artist. It’s great to be involved in an artistic career, for example, and you don’t have to be the one producing the art to be creative.”
If she had to write down what her profession is, she would list it as ‘art dealer,’ noting that she doesn’t really produce her own artwork anymore. “I mainly display the works of other artists and try to help them.”
Grace is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to running her shop, handling everything from finances to the shop work: “I especially enjoy working with other artists, and helping people choose beautiful artwork for their homes.” She has a staff of three who assist her in the shop.
Meibohm Fine Arts is located in two buildings along Main Street in East Aurora. The front building houses the art gallery, which features the works of local artists, both historic and contemporary. Grace changes the exhibit five times a year; for each presentation the entire three room gallery is dedicated to one artist.
Upstairs is their online division, where they sell artwork via their website and on e-bay. “The online and internet sales division is our most recent change. I wonder what my dad and grandfather would think.”
The back building houses The Art Shop, where they have prints and original artwork, and do custom framing for individuals and businesses. “We do the framing for the gift shop at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center and have done the art work at all the Elderwood facilities and other commercial clients. She also noted that they did all the framing for East Aurora’s Roycroft Inn when it was restored. “We are pleased to be supporting the Roycroft revitalization.”
A brief tour of the work room revealed one area lined with various lengths, colors, and styles of moldings, which Grace cuts to shape on equipment her father once used. Once she cuts the molding to size, she joins the pieces to create a compete frame.
Another room of her shop houses equipment to cut mats for frames, including a unique looking instrument used to cut oval and round mats. She pointed some antique artwork she was working on for a client, which required matching new material to a vintage piece.
Grace said while many customers are from East Aurora and nearby communities, she has some that travel from areas including Canada and Pennsylvania, who come to her shop because of her reputation for quality work.
Meibohm Fine Arts is located at 478 Main Street in East Aurora. The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday 9:30-5:30; (716) 652-0940, www.meibohmfinearts.com.