More than a beautiful picture

07.13.2016 - Conference & Retreat, Inn Renovation

Kanuga usually leaves a lasting impression on guests when they come to visit. When Robin Smith came to Kanuga, he turned the tables by leaving a lasting legacy for the Kanuga Lake Inn.

A professional photographer by trade, Robin began coming to Kanuga in the 1960s and started donating his time and work at the end of that decade. Through the years, many of his iconic photos of Kanuga have been used in marketing materials and items sold in the gift shop. His photographs, capturing the breathtaking beauty of Kanuga, adorned the walls at the inn before the extensive renovation.

When the inn closed this past December, Robin stepped up to donate his time and expertise. Robin removed all of his images (as well as our extensive collection of Joyce Blakely watercolors) from the inn. With a clean slate before him, he returned to his massive collection of photos for the project of a lifetime.

“The renovation offered a wonderful opportunity because I was able to go back and look at 50 years of my photo files,” says Robin. “I found some beautiful images that never before saw the light of day.”

However, the images were only part of Robin’s generous gift to Kanuga. His in-kind donation extended to the archival-quality framing of the photos and watercolors. When it came time to build the frames in his on-site frame shop, he was unable to find a commercial molding that fit the inn’s arts and crafts style.

The drive to create the perfect frame resulted in the sacrifice of time and manpower. “When I couldn’t find the right molding, I said ‘Okay, I’ll make my own,’” said Robin. “I used over 500 board feet of oak to make the frames. I sawed it, mitered it, sanded it, stained it, and varnished it.”

Robin personally worked on every single detail of the frames in his shop with no heating or air conditioning. When the weather wasn’t conducive to working on the frames, he stayed on schedule by using that time to cut mats, print pictures, and prepare the art for the finished frames.

Even more impressive than the scope of the project is perhaps the timeline within which Robin completed the work. He started on January 1 and delivered the last batch of over 200 framed photographic images and watercolors the first week of June.

Calling it a meditative experience, Robin is frank about Kanuga’s impact on his life. “The people and the friendships you make here are lifelong. There is a spirit in this place that brings people back,” says Robin. “Kanuga is a definitely a place where God’s world and the human world meets. More lives have been touched here than you can count, mine included.”