My Biz: Art Cellar owner brings new frame of mind

Cedar Rapids gallery sells works by local, regional artists

George Ford
Published: January 16 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:11 am in

Travis Kinkead spent the last 15 years of his professional life in the framing business, but he didn’t have the opportunity to be his own boss until July when he bought The Art Cellar in Cedar Rapids.

Kinkead, who attended the University of Iowa to study studio arts, spent several years working in the framing departments of Michaels, Ben Franklin, ARA Gallery and CornerHouse Gallery.

After living in Chicago for a few years, he moved back to Cedar Rapids and worked in construction until The Art Cellar opportunity came along.

“Everyone has pipe dreams,” Kinkead said. “When the previous owner (George Szlemp) heard I was interested in buying the business, it snowballed really quickly."

Since taking ownership, Kinkead has kept the ball moving quickly to make the business his own. He has revamped the interior of the building, freshening up paint and creating more gallery space.

Kinkead also created a new website, revised the company logo and created a Facebook presence.

"Customers can expect the same pricing and quality of work,"  Kinkead said. "I remodeled the sales floor into a working gallery."

The Art Cellar gallery sells works by local and regional artists.  Kinkead said he is always looking to expand the list of artists he works with.

Kinkead also hopes the gallery will interest beginning art collectors as he aims to offer art in all media that is moderately priced.

Kinkead said one of the biggest challenges he has faced since buying The Art Cellar is getting exposure for the business.

“People don’t know we are here,” he said. “People should feel free to stop in and take a look around at all our art.”

The Art Cellar initially opened in downtown Cedar Rapids in 1982. After the flood of 2008, the business relocated to the big purple house on First Avenue SE across the street from Coe College.

Once you’ve noticed it, Kinkead said, it’s hard to miss.

Kinkead is pleased with how the first few months of business ownership have gone, but has plenty of ideas to keep him busy in coming months and years. He plans to start hosting a lot more events.

As the only employee, Kinkead’s days are filled with all the details of running the business, from framing and ordering supplies, to dealing with the artists and handling deliveries.

“I work six days a week,” he said. “When you own a business you can’t sit and do nothing or nothing gets done.”

Of course working as a framer has its perks.

“I really enjoy seeing all of the different artwork that people bring in,” Kinkead said. “There is a lot of stuff that other people just don’t typically get to see.

"The first week I took over the business I had the opportunity to frame two illustrations from the original (1930) Steamboat Willie.”


  • Owner: Travis Kinkead
  • Business: The Art Cellar
  • Address: 1225 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
  • Phone: (319) 364-0506
  • Website:


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