David Court, Christi Westerhouse, and daughter Francesca in the workroom of Frameworks' new location.
Paul Wellman

Tonight, Thursday, September 6, the Frameworks/Caruso-Woods Gallery will reopen its doors. Closed since the original De la Guerra Street location sustained serious damage in an early-morning fire on April 18, the gallery has found a new home at the El Paseo complex on Anacapa Street. Caruso-Woods will reopen with a grouping of abstract monotypes and oil paintings by Oaxaca-based artist Ra°l Soruco, who will be on hand for the opening reception. Musicians Spencer and Sam will play and Kalyra Winery will pour in celebration of the gallery’s reincarnation.

“We’ve found a great location that’s going to be really good for us,” said owner Christi Westerhouse. “Our goal is to be open for the September 1st Thursday. It was difficult not to be part of it this summer. People have told us they don’t know what to do on 1st Thursday without Frameworks. Had we not gone through this adversity, I don’t think we’d have realized how much of a difference what we were doing actually made.”

When husband-and-wife owners David Court and Christi Westerhouse bought the gallery almost five years ago, they never imagined all their efforts would go up in smoke. The Frameworks/Caruso-Woods Gallery, an intimate space known for its thought-provoking exhibitions and support of local contemporary artists, is a founding member of and the original inspiration for the Downtown Organization’s monthly 1st Thursday cultural arts program. Inspired by the idea that an art exhibition could open channels of dialogue and provide an inexpensive cultural venue for a younger crowd to socialize and engage with art, Court and Westerhouse began hosting free, BYOB soirees at the gallery several years ago. They were continually asked how they expected to make any money from these parties. “It was our long-term marketing strategy,” they laughed. “People would learn to appreciate art and its importance in the community and would eventually come back to us in one way or another.” These easygoing shindigs became an unofficial after-party destination for SBMA’s monthly Nights series, and ultimately inspired the Downtown Organization to launch 1st Thursdays.

This year, as spring turned to summer, Court and Westerhouse began the process of rebounding from their loss. To further complicate matters, Westerhouse was six months pregnant at the time of the fire, and thus was not allowed into the building to take stock of what remained of the business. The ensuing months have seen Court and Westerhouse identifying the gallery’s new home and welcoming daughter Francesca into the world. Birthing and nurturing a baby and a gallery simultaneously has left the couple exhausted, but more excited than ever to reintroduce themselves and their gallery to the community.

“The past few months have been really important for us,” said Court. “In addition to the birth of our daughter, the fire really gave us perspective on what life is all about-especially in regard to our involvement in the community. The gallery participates in community-related environmental work, social justice work; proceeds from Buddha Abides support the Tibetan Children’s Village and a women’s crisis center. We try to do things we feel make a difference. We never expected so many people to come to our aid when that disaster happened, and it made us realize people were paying attention to what we were doing, in terms of both the art and the activism. We’re strong supporters of grassroots community building, and it was very inspiring to see its benefits returned when we really needed it. To that end, we’ve decided to step it up in the future by being even more involved in larger social issues.”

“We now have a child,” he continued. “If it takes a community to raise a child, we want to try to make that community one we’re happy with.”


The Frameworks/Caruso-Woods Gallery reopens at 813 Anacapa Street on Thursday, September 6, with a reception from 5-8 p.m. Call 965-1812 or visit carusowoods.com.


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