Chicago has been no stranger to this fall’s primetime television line up. And neither has local artist, Nancie King Mertz.
Serving as the setting for many new and returning shows including Fox’s “The Chicago Fire,” Starz’s “Boss,” and MTV’s “Underemployed,” familiar Chicago locations can be seen on television on just about any given weeknight, and, coincidentally, after set designers found their way into Mertz’s Lakeview frame shop, so can much of her Chicago-themed artwork.
With a Fall Show, featuring work she spent five straight days working on in New York City, opening Friday, Oct. 26, Mertz’s success has reached heights she never expected.
Owner of Artful Framer Studios and Art de Triumph, 2938 N. Clark St., two combined spaces, Mertz’s oil paintings and frame work have been on display and for sale in the city since she and her husband first relocated to the area from Central Illinois in the late 1980’s.
Leaving an established career and frame shop behind, Mertz and her husband were ready for a major change in scenery and inspiration. Painting mostly people in their previous neighborhood, Mertz quickly shifted her focus to the urban architecture that made up her new home.
Nestled on a Clark Street strip lined with apartment rental service companies and neighborhood dry cleaners, it is no surprise that the screen door to Mertz’s gallery adorned with a string of metal bell chimes, stood out to the Hollywood set designers stopping in for frame repair in the summer of 2010.
“It’s always exciting when they come in because they work so fast,” said Mertz. “They come in and say, ‘Okay, the truck will be here in twenty minutes, we need this and this and this.'”
Standing among stacks of her latest work from her September trip to the streets of New York City, Mertz explains the story of her first meeting with the crew.
“They came in and said, ‘Wow, where did you get all this Chicago artwork?’ and I said that it was mine,’ said Mertz. ‘I definitely know they were glad that they could have me sign the one release needed and then be good to go.”
Serving as background on shows including “The Mob Doctor” and canceled series “The Chicago Code,” her artwork is constantly rotated from sets.
“They rent and they buy it,” said Mertz. “If they return to the set like they do in ‘The Good Wife,’ then they buy it.'”
While getting adjusted to the “crazy fast pace” the set designers work in has not been much of an issue for Mertz and her store manager, DePaul University alum, Jackie Alcantara who has also had her work displayed on “The Mob Doctor”, getting to finally scout both their work on screen has been.
“I don’t have a TV,” said Alcantara, taking a break from hanging Mertz’s latest work on partially bare gallery walls. “It’s still a huge compliment though.”
Alcantara first met Mertz when she began an internship at her gallery during her junior year of college while working on an Art Education degree. Since then, Alcantara has sold her work among Mertz’s in the same Lakeview shop, started a sketchbook business and finished a children’s book.
“Nancie’s nice enough to let me show my work here,” said Alcantara of her boss.
It is that same genuine compassion and expertise Nancie offers that keeps customers and friends returning to purchase her work season after season.
“I have people that have 30 t0 40 originals,” said Nancie, as her friend Kurt walks into the store with a bottle of $7 wine.
“What’s this for?” Mertz laughs.
Her friend answers after letting her go from a congratulatory hug, “well, it was cheap.”
Mertz’s latest work can be seen in “New York, New Work” at Art de Triumph, 2938 N. Clark St.
Friday, Oct. 26, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.