Local chocolate factory owner rekindles love of art

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Rebecca Ruth Chocolate factory has been serving the community sweets for nearly a century. Charles Booe, who has been managing the business since he purchased it from his father in 1997, recently found a way to incorporate his lifelong love of art into his career as business owner.

The Frankfort businessman has been painting and drawing since his early teens.

"I started drawing as a kid and it naturally progressed from there," he said.

When Booe was around 14, he visited Jackson Square in New Orleans.

"There was a pen-and-ink artist that I started talking to about his work," said Booe. "He took me to an art store in the area and told me what kinds of tools to buy, showed me a few techniques. I did a couple of drawings while I was there and took them back to let him critique."

Today, Booe cannot recall the name of the artist, but his influence inspired him to foster his skills and seek out other mentors. A few years later, while attending the Capital Expo, Booe encountered Michael Finnell, a well-known Lexington artist who died in 1999.

"The Expo was a lot more arts-oriented in those days," recalled Booe. "I met Mike Finnell in Frankfort there and took art classes from him."

Booe said he was also fortunate to receive guidance from fellow Kentucky artist Henry Faulkner.

"I met Henry when he was in Frankfort one day doing a painting of a house," Booe said. "He showed me a lot of his techniques, but I never took formal lessons from him. He was incredibly knowledgable and well trained."

While Booe received a business degree from the University of Kentucky, he was sure to take as many art classes as he could. Art history and studio arts were among his favorites.

When he began managing Rebecca Ruth full time, Booe said it became more difficult to include painting in his everyday life. His love for the hobby was rekindled when he accompanied his son, Alex, on a school trip to Madrid, Spain, last spring.

"I ended up getting food poisoning and was too weak to keep up with the pace of the group," Booe said. "So I kind of had to do my own thing. On the third day I visited the Prado Art Museum, and looking at the art there inspired me to start painting again."

Still, Booe found other ways to incorporate art into his business.

"I use art every day in advertising," said Booe. "I use art professionally anytime I'm designing my packaging or using computer graphics."

Following his trip to Madrid, however, Booe decided to take the relationship between his business and his art a step further. The Frankfort shop recently began featuring an art gallery inside the cafe. Each month, a new Frankfort artist is showcased. All art is available for purchase.

"Frankfort needs to become more aware of their artistic resources," said Booe. "So we created the Rebecca Ruth art gallery with a rotating exhibit."

July's featured artist is Karen Carey.

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