In the Frame with Cool Art Gallery
When the stoke levels were high, Joe ‘Cool’ McFeeters was there, and thanks to a love of community and art, he’s still riding the wave of success 25 years later, reminisces Helen Flanagan.
Charismatic fun-loving Joe McFeeters was born in Tenterfield, and fresh from a four-year apprenticeship in picture framing, followed by a sojourn with a large scale framing manufacturer, he moved to the Sunshine Coast where the young tousled blond quickly became known as ‘Joe Cool’.
Entrepreneurialism was in his blood, and he saw the opportunity to open his own picture framing business in Coolum.
Joe said the area reminded him of home with a small country town by-the-sea feeling – and it shrieked potential.
Joe chose Cool Art as the name, not because of Coolum or Cool, but due to an affinity he had with the ‘against the odd’s’ theme of the 1993 American sports comedy movie, Cool Runnings.
The original business in Beach Road, whilst small, allowed him to nurture local artists with a gallery space and regular exhibitions of original artworks by local artists.
His passion was ignited and although in the early days he admitted to popping the ‘back in 5’ sign on the door to go for a two-hour surf; he made up for it in spades, quickly being ahead of the game in custom picture framing as well as curating local exhibitions.
Exceptionally talented artists from the early days such as Blair McNamara, Pam Walpole and Jan Williamson became friends and mentors and exhibited in the space as well as Des Rolph, Nick Olsen, Starr and Tony Coles.
Joe’s interaction within the Coolum community became legendary. From his hole-in-the-wall espresso bar at Cool Art, Joe facilitated numerous local High School projects including annual sculpture and Coolum Laneway shows and orchestrating community barbeques and cook-ups with big pots of curry and fresh fish, often caught from his kayak.
Joe met Erin in 2014 at the aforementioned coffee bar where he made an excellent coffee and genuinely listens to his customers, which is integral to his skill in designing for framing clients.
Expansion was well overdue for the gallery and picture framing business with Joe choosing a custom-built industrial space in Access Crescent at Coolum Beach in 2017. Designed by Joe, he admits to coming a long way from when surf boards were stacked near framing stock in Beach Road.
“Thanks to two highly skilled picture framing staff and me, we design, quote and custom manufacture all framing big or small on-site,” says Joe whose partner Erin came onboard as co-director and gallery manager. “We also have expertise in conservation and preservation of artworks – so important when living on the coast is a vital environmental consideration in terms of product selection, durability and longevity.
“Classic canvases, photographs, mirrors and conservation framing as well as jerseys, medals, certificates, prints, photos and memorabilia are not uncommon but we also look after unusual pieces such as a horse blanket!”
“In 2021, we acquired the adjoining premises as an exhibition/creative workshop space,” Erin explains adding “the expansive gallery has hosted 16-plus artists, 23 exhibitions both solo and selected groups.
“We gravitate towards contemporary abstract art, as a personal aesthetic making a clear point of difference on the coast gallery scene.”
Precious time-out for Joe and Erin revolves around juggling their blended family of six with kids from 12-years-old to one-year-old; enjoying Coolum Beach, the rock pools at Yaroomba and eating locally, including at Ma Boulange.
Joe’s vision, passion and perseverance are commendable and his vision to create a remarkable space, which 25-years on, people still love to be part of, makes it worthy of celebrating, as is the new name – CA Gallery, suggesting Cool Art, Contemporary Art.
It also recognises the status as a premier contemporary gallery and arts destination in south-east Queensland.