Springfield artist hoping gallery draws residents downtown

Doug Frates has operated his glass studio at the former Meeks Building on Fountain Avenue for about two years. Running with Scissors, a local retailer, shared the space and sold products at the front of the store, but recently moved out of the 6,000-square-foot storefront about four months ago. Instead of seeking a new business partner, Frates expanded into the available space and will highlight his glasswork along with work from other artists throughout the region.

He is also hoping customers provide feedback and suggestions on other ways his studio can help promote art in the community.

“This could be a niche Springfield has that wasn’t available before,” Frates said.

A St. Louis native, Frates served in Iraq in the U.S. Marines before settling in Arizona to perfect his craft of designing hand-blown glass. However, he eventually settled in Springfield because of the opportunities available and the lower cost of living.

The business has been successful, and Frates works with three full-time employees and two contractors to produce original artwork for his customers.

The studio has already been a draw for residents during events like First Fridays, a monthly event to highlight downtown, said Bill Harless, executive director of the Center City Association. A garage door at the front of the business can be opened, allowing residents to wander in off the street to browse the artwork on display.

“I see Doug’s business as a catalyst for the rest of downtown,” Harless said.

Several recent investments have been made throughout the downtown area, including an investment from the city to turn a portion of Fountain Avenue in front of the store into a two-way street.

Frates said he believes his studio can play a part in making downtown more attractive to residents.

“I think it’s going to come around, and when it does it’s going to be a really neat area,” Frates said.

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