Artist Tracy Frederick in front of her work

Local artist Tracy Frederick not only works at Central Park Coffee, but she is also displaying her work at the local shop and hoping to encourage other Steele County artists to do the same. (Ashley Peterson/People's Press)

OWATONNA — When Tracy Frederick began her studies at an Los Angeles art school, she never thought she'd end up in Minnesota, or that many years later photography would be her expression of choice.

In college, Frederick planned to become an architect, but during her research photography class final project, Frederick realized her love for structure, texture and buildings went beyond the designing of the scale model she had produced.

"I realized I wasn’t that great of a drawer, so I designed a model or my final project and photographed it, and the photographs were my final project," she said.

While living in LA gave Frederick instant access to photographing musicians and actors, she started working in the interior design field doing portfolio work and product shots for a custom design furniture company in West Hollywood. In her time out of the office, she started doing portraits, shooting family sessions and found she enjoyed that avenue of artistic expression.

"I would consider myself an artist because I like to do not only photography, but I also like curating. I’d like to help people in their homes, take a photograph of their family and help curate it -- where do you want these photographs? I really enjoy that full circle aspect of it -- displaying as well as meeting the families and photographing them," Frederick said.

In a move to Minnesota seven years ago, the Fredericks settled in Owatonna and Tracy has been working on an evolution of her work ever since.

"I’m in the midst of changing my style now because I’m kind of bored with the two-dimensional aspect of it. How can I make it three-dimensional? I don’t know. How can I make it different? I'm constantly working that out," she said. "Right now photography is my medium of choice but that doesn’t mean it’s my only thing. I’m evolving."

Her artistic inspiration comes not only from her time spent on the West Coast, but from global travels during her childhood and beyond.

"Thankfully I had a family that traveled a lot. Not only was I living in Los Angeles, but traveling through Africa, Europe, Russia, Baltic Sea, Arctic Circle and taking helicopters to land formations women had never been to," she said. "My aunt and my parents and my grandparents have collected art all their lives so I grew up with it. I’ve always been surrounded with trying it and seeing new things and not being afraid of diversity."

From traveling the world to settling in serene Minnesota, Frederick has managed to "keep her work fresh" and finds "being different" can be quite fun.

"I really got the appreciation of different medias. From comic books to fashion ... then moving here, I have land, agriculture and I just all of a sudden am thrown back into the simple things in life, so again, photography has really been my tool of being creative again because I can meet people and really go through this evolution now," she said. "I’m in a time in my life where how do I take all of what I’ve learned and all I know, and what do I do with it now?"

What Frederick hopes to do is use her connection as a barista at Sue Papp's Central Park Coffee and encourage other local artists to showcase their work at the downtown hot spot.

"Sue is really big into community and bringing people downtown, so with my interior sensibility and artist sensibility, I can bring to her coffee shop a celebration of local artists and expose the community to local artists while she allows artists to advertise their services," Frederick said.

In her own business as a photographer, Frederick works with local frame shop Cedar Gallery to offer custom framing as well as is starting her own venture in canvas wrapped prints.

"We just want to use local artists in the community to help promote more artwork. I just want to keep building that network in," Frederick said. "Hopefully the work will attract people into the shop to check out the artwork and just keep pushing that out there and hopefully it will spread, but it will start here at Central Park."

Papp said she is a fan of supporting local artists, and the benefits go beyond giving the artist a showplace.

"It makes it fun for them to have someplace to show their art and it’s fun for our customers to have different things on the walls every couple months," Papp said. "This is our third year that we’ve done it. Once we’ve started with this, it’s just seemed to snowball."

Papp said through her connections at the coffee shop, she's been introduced to many art forms and has grown to appreciate art that goes beyond paintings or drawings -- she's also bringing in a cake artist's and a chocolatier's work.

The idea is local artists will rotate showcasing their work at Central Park Coffee. And in putting her interest in curating to good use, Frederick has taken on the role of organizing that network of artists and hopes to get a schedule going for artists to be on display.

"With all the coffee shops I’ve been to, there’s always local artwork in there and it’s kind of a no-brainer that it’s a great thing to have artwork on the walls," she said.

Any local artists interested in more information about showing his or her work at Central Park Coffee can call Tracy at 507-451-4242.

Ashley Peterson can be reached at 444-2378.

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