During pandemic, Kingston FrameWorks helps artists enter global market

Arts business owner talks adapting to COVID-19 and preserving father’s legacy

Kingston FrameWorks opened in 1982.

Colin Morris, who runs the framing business his father started in 1982, believes COVID-19 has helped rather than hindered artists who sell their work.

“You hear a lot of negative news about how this pandemic has hurt artists because galleries had to close—including my own. But what you’re not really hearing is how innovative artists have become and how they’re willing to try new things,” Morris told The Journal.

Kingston FrameWorks has been operating for nearly 40 years. It’s become a fixture of the local arts community by not only enabling artists to attractively display their work, but through connecting them with buyers and coaching them on how to market themselves.

“It is actually a lot of fun being part of the arts community,” Morris said. “You meet a lot of amazing, talented artists around here, and you get to know their stories and help them create.”

Since lockdowns have been a regular feature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Morris is exploring the online art community more than ever before. The Kingston FrameWorks website now has an online shop that enables artists to upload their pieces to be printed in-store or to select custom framing options. They’ve also added an online art gallery where customers can buy prints of local artists’ work.

“It’s not really all that new,” Morris said of their online store. “We just never did it because we’re a small business and things were good.”

In that way, the pandemic has inspired innovations that will continue benefiting artists even when the world returns to normal.

“I can tell you straight from my printing how busy some artists have been because suddenly they’re looking at dropshipping instead of just selling to the local market. They’re looking at selling their art as a print around the world,” he said.

Morris encourages artists to start marketing their work on social media sites like Reddit and TikTok so they can connect with buyers from any region of the globe.

“There’s definitely some people who have pivoted well and we’re doing the same as a business,” he said.

Morris studied finance, but when he was in his early 20s, he never imagined taking over his father’s business. Now, helping Kingston artists and improving FrameWorks’ online store has become his “central focus.”

“[My dad] started saying one night, ‘Yeah, I’m never going to retire. The business isn’t worth anything.’ I said to him, no way. Are you kidding? This is a steady cash flow, there’s a stream there, there’s a reputation that you guys have built, a brand, and people love you guys […] As I tried to convince him, I started convincing me.”

What started as Morris trying to help his dad secure a good retirement became a bigger passion for him.

“Finance was interesting in some ways, but [also] not. I’ve always been more arts-focused and creative, and suddenly it kind of clicked that this is where I could actually make my mark.”

There’s a tendency in a lot of young men to reject following their father’s footsteps, but Morris has come to embrace his role at Kingston FrameWorks.

“A lot of people want to forge their own path for something and while that’s definitely a good thing to do, sometimes maybe that’s a little overrated,” he said.

“Maybe continuing a legacy is actually pretty powerful in its own right. Getting to work with my dad all this time obviously has brought us a new understanding. We work really well together and I wouldn’t even have known that if I hadn’t tried this.” 

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