The Cavalier Daily
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Freeman-Victorius framers prepare for spring business

Local Corner store, which has framed student diplomas, art work for more than 70 years, will see influx of patrons for 2010 graduation

Along with job applications and final exams, graduating University students have on their minds this coming May a single piece of paper: their dipolomas.

"To me, a diploma means that despite all the ups and downs you've had in your college life, it's all been worthwhile," fourth-year College student Christine Piccora said. "It means that you've made it."\nReceiving one's diploma is only part of the graduation process, however; the other is getting that degree framed.

At the Freeman-Victorius Framing Shop, located on the Corner between The White Spot and Qdoba, framing diplomas is a part of the daily routine.

"As far as degree framing goes," shop owner Richard Freeman said, "we've probably framed more degrees than anybody in the country."

Although the majority of Freeman-Victorius patrons are University graduates, students from colleges across the country visit the store for framing services, Freeman said, noting that he has seen patrons from universities in New York, Florida and California.

The business was founded in the 1920s in London, England by Paul Victorius as a rare books and print shop. Victorius moved the business to Charlottesville in 1938 to live closer to his sister and brother-in-law, who was a professor at the University at the time. The University now owns some of Victorius's book collections, notably collection of works by Charles Darwin.

Freeman said Victorius expanded the store into a frame shop after moving to Charlottesville in the 1930s to help frame degrees for graduating students. Then in 1968, Freeman, who owned an art gallery in Richmond, took control of the store after Victorius took notice of the shop and asked him to move to Charlottesville to help run it. After taking the reins of the Freeman-Victorius store, Freeman for a while combined his loves of art and framing and featured some artists in small exhibits in the store.

"I showed an artist whose name was Carlo Pelliccia, who was an Italian architect and head of the [Architecture] School," Freeman said. "The store was so packed [that] you couldn't get into it."

Now, Freeman said the shop focuses on such things as selling prints, restoring artwork, and of course, framing.

"We did most of that framing for ... the maps in the Rotunda," Freeman said, adding that he also has framed images and documents for every University president - including President John T. Casteen, III - since he has been here, as well as paintings for Monticello.

One day, Freeman said he received a call from boxer Muhammad Ali to frame, in "shadowbox" or thick box frame, a prized belt buckle from one of his championships.

"He said, 'Do you know who it is?' and I knew exactly who it is after I heard him talk ... It was Muhammad Ali," Freeman said. "He said, 'I've got a championship belt buckle, and I want you to frame it in a shadow box.'"

Although the shop attracts big-name clients, students themselves come to the shop because on graduation day, it can frame most diplomas in one hour, depending on if the frame was previously ordered or if the diploma will be put in a standard, prepared frame. On graduation day, the Freemans noted that they usually frame about 100 degrees or diplomas. During the week following graduation, they continue to frame large numbers of diplomas.

"It takes real serious planning," Freeman said, noting that the shop used to frame some degrees in 30 minutes but expanded the time frame through the years to one hour.

Some patrons get their degrees framed immediately, but others wait to get their diplomas framed months or years after they leave Grounds.

"We get them all the time," said Brigitte Freeman, who is Richard's wife. "Not everyone frames them right away."

Framing is an art form, the Freemans said, and is designed to help make what is inside the frame, be it a degree or a piece artwork, stand out.

"You want to enhance the picture, you don't want the frame to ... take over," Brigitte said.

Although the Freemans have experienced many a graduation day, they still look forward to each one, as well as the business that comes with it.

"We get excited because it's a big day for everybody," Freeman said. "It's like launching a ship to go to sea"


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