By Frances Clause
Supporting locally owned businesses in Youngstown has never been easier with the continuous growth of shops on Elm Street, and one shop’s goal is to create art for a cause.
Christa Franklin’s space in Once Upon a Time Art Studio contains handmade paintings on recycled wood, fair-trade items, baskets and sewn dolls visitors can purchase to fund her mission trips.
Franklin began creating art at a young age and said she has been able to combine this passion with meeting and helping people from different countries through the support of the Youngstown community.
“Last year was my first mission trip to India, and that one costs a lot of money,” she said. “Through the support of people and their donations, I’ve been able to accomplish what I really need to accomplish.”
Franklin’s next stops include New York, Russia, India and Ethiopia.
“My family is very diversified in culture, so being able to go to these [countries] just brings me joy and then building relationships with the people,” she said. “So, I never go just once. I always go back several times.”
An experience that stuck with Franklin during her trip to India last year was
when she was driving with a missionary and they witnessed children building swings from old cloth on the side of the road.
“Just seeing the poverty that [the children] go through but they still try to make the best of it … Coming back to America after that experience just made me appreciate the little things more,” she said.
To raise more money for her cause, Franklin collected donations as a guest artist at a Sip and Paint Family Night event hosted by U.N.Act at the Rust Belt Theater on Sunday.
Monica Beasley-Martin of U.N.Act said her son started the program to get people of different generations to come together.
“We do this every third Sunday, and we started 10 years ago,” she said. “We shine a light on somebody who has a creative talent and is doing positive things with it, so we picked [Franklin] as our featured artist.”
Franklin led attendees in a holiday craft, and she said U.N.Act drew attention to her shop in its beginnings because of her past as the featured artist.
“[Beasley-Martin] kind of got me more exposed and out there because I kind of was [creating art] from home, and I really didn’t think about creating a studio space where people can come in,” Franklin said.
According to Franklin, another supporter who she views as a motherly figure, other than Beasley-Martin, is Rebecca Banks, a Youngstown State University alumna who supports her shop and U.N.Act’s events.
“I feel like I’m with family,” Banks said, referring to Franklin and Beasley-Martin. “I love that U.N.Act is unstructured in a way, so you’re free, and it’s a safe place to express yourself. You can come here and show your art and not be judged.”
Banks said Franklin and U.N.Act promote positivity, growing, exploring and the idea that everyone has talent inside of them.
To support Franklin’s cause, visit 818 Elm St. or follow Once Upon a Time Art Line Studio on Facebook.