SOMA – South on Main Artist
When you shake hands with Grapevine blacksmith Will Frary, you realize just how easy your day job is.
Since the early 1980’s, the blacksmith’s seasoned hands have been hard at work, pounding away at whatever piece of wrought iron, steel, railroad spike or horseshoe is unfortunate enough to find itself between his hammer and anvil.
Upon entering Frary’s Grapevine foundry, where he makes one-of-a-kind high-end works of art by hand, you’ll notice his great-grandfather’s coal forge from the 1890’s and his grandmother’s old wood fired stove, which she let him keep on the condition that he would never burn coal in it.
If he likes you, he might even offer you some decaffeinated coffee from the kettle resting on his stove.
But these aspects are not the most surprising to a visitor to the blacksmith’s shop.
While Frary forges projects for his patrons, he encourages them to interact with his foundry. Children, for example, are allowed to crank the forge’s blower, like Frary did when he was a young child. There’s a small red baby bat hanging behind a curtain in the foundry (don’t spoil the surprise when you see it), and a giant foam but very real-looking anvil hangs above the heads of unsuspecting patrons.
“People get worried about the rope holding the anvil,” said Frary. “I tell them that they’re alright because I learned to tie a good slippery knot.”
Frary isn’t the only artist in Grapevine who offers an interactive artistic experience for customers. In fact, he is part of a collective group recently dubbed the “South On Main Artists in Grapevine,” or SOMA Grapevine, which is made up of a unique lineup of artists, working in studios and galleries located on South Main Street in the heart of Historic Grapevine.
“SOMA is a grass-roots group of artisans who are pure in what they do with their artistry,” said David Gappa, a founding member of SOMA and the owner of Vetro Glassblowing Studio and Gallery. “We don’t want to be a sort of sidewalk show. We want to be a series of true working artisans that are creating art to benefit the world.”
Although he humbly refers to himself as just “one of the founding members of SOMA,” the collective would not exist without him, according to Patricia Bodnyk, owner of the Morgan Dane Art Gallery and Studios.
“[Gappa] hesitates to say that he’s the cornerstone of SOMA, but he really is,” said Bodnyk. “He doesn’t want to take away from the rest of us, but he’s the reason why it’s here.”
The four co-founders of SOMA, including Nick “Train” Kirk’s Molten Metals Foundry, are conveniently located right next to one another, and the close quarters allow for a highly collaborative atmosphere.
This atmosphere is probably best demonstrated by Frary and Gappa’s joint venture in the “Crimson Cascade”, a 20-foot, 2,700-pound chandelier that consists of more than 350 hand-blown glass cylinders and hangs in the Place at Perry’s restaurant in Dallas.
“Will [Frary] and I hit it off very quickly because he has the ability to fabricate any sort of steel you would need,” said Gappa. “To have artisans that can work together is fairly rare. To have artisans that are close together in proximity really makes a difference.”
Aside from capitalizing on a collaborative mecca of local artistry, SOMA’s mission, the co-founders say, is to create a fine arts district in Grapevine where residents and tourists alike can learn about the local arts, actively participate in the working studios and have the opportunity to purchase pieces directly from artists.
Like Frary’s interactive foundry, the artists of SOMA have all found ways to engage patrons. Morgan Dane allows the artists featured in its studio to teach workshops. Bodnyk teaches classes in the studios. Gappa allows patrons to watch their work as its being made and sometimes lets them participate in the creative process.
“It resonates quite a bit more with the patron that they can be actually involved in seeing the art created,” said Gappa. “There’s a higher level of intimacy that the patron can participate in.”
SOMA takes pride in the significance of local art and the impact it has on its consumers. Patricia Bodnyk said 98 percent of the patrons that come into her gallery are looking for local art.
“The neatest thing about the artwork is [the patrons] have the ‘Brag Factor,’” said Frary. “They can say, ‘I know the guy that made this. I sat with him while he made it.’”
What’s next for SOMA Grapevine?
“It’s kind of hard for me to define my vision for SOMA because we don’t know where it’s going…and I think that’s the beauty of it,” said Gappa. “I think once you try to control a vision of artistry, then you destroy it.”
SOMA artists agree that they want to increase the quality and quantity of public art in Grapevine.
“One thing that I would like to see SOMA accomplish is to start a fire for art in Grapevine, to have that fire grow into public art and provide a central location for the local artists here,” said Frary. “I think we have a pretty good opportunity to provide leadership for the community with SOMA.”
SOMA is currently hosting a fine arts show in the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau Tower Gallery, located at 636 South Main Street, that will be available to the public through Sunday, Jan. 13. The show, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, exhibits fine art made locally by more than 20 artists working in or represented by the SOMA studios and galleries.
For more information about the show, click here, and be sure to check out the photo gallery below.