Ellen Rontal's Baker bed is covering with Southwestern fabric. Her two taupe, overstuffed chairs surround a Navajo clay figurine by Alice
Seeley. Near her night stands are a Jenny Trammel bowl and a Marie Cash doll.
Before Ellen could contemplate the venture, Sue found
the perfect spot in Franklin for a gallery showing
"I knew it was perfect. It was a charming, beautiful,
old house in Franklin. It had the original hand-cut
beams, " said Sue.
The two sisters-in-law went out west, set up appoint-
ments and dealt with artists directly to start their busi-
"We wanted to have a representation of the
Southwest. The art is so diverse. We want to represent
the many different types of people in the area."
It is difficult to define Southwestern art, explain the
owners. Many of the artists are native Americans, while
others have Hispanic origins. Some of the pieces are
folk art and some are contemporary. "The Southwest is
a mecca for artists," said Ellen.
Ellen and Sue Rontal have created a local mecca for
Southwestern art in their 3,000 square-foot gallery,
Mesa Arts in Franklin. The six-year-old business show-
cases everything Southwest including oil paintings,
furniture, clothing, ceramics, jewelry, dolls and mirrors.
The prices are as diversified as the merchandise.
Customers can purchase a pair of earrings for $20 or an
oil painting for $2,000.
Some of the artists they represent have skills that
have been passed down for generations. Artists Bill
and Cathy Brewer paint on animal hides just like their
Sioux ancestors. Marie Cash's woodcarvings and fig-
urines reflect her Hispanic heritage.
When Ellen and Sue Rontal aren't working at Mesa
Arts, their passion for Southwestern art is reflected at
home. "I've always had art before furniture," said Ellen,
whose neutral, contemporary home has a mix of native
American art. They never buy art that matches a color
scheme. They only buy art because they love it.
Both owners agree that mixing art with different
types of furniture works well. A Chippendale dining
room set and French chairs provide an interesting
backdrop for Southwestern art. "I mix everything,"
Ellen Rontal's art and furniture are eclectic. Her
(continued on page 58)