Multi-Passion Diary: Well, I RAN An Art Gallery
I'm still working and hammering out what I want this column to be, but I think for now it's both a good place to find out about other solo entrepreneurs and the balls they're juggling while exploring some personal blogging too. Today felt like a more personal day for one big reason: I just closed an art gallery.
Now, for those just tuning into my blog perhaps for the first time, in addition to doing tarot and writing I run a theatre company called Gadfly Theatre Productions that does queer and feminist work. Sometime last year we started aching for our own space, and it turns out, a good friend of mine decided to buy a restaurant, which means she needed someone to take over her lease at a popular small art gallery. The space was ideal for rehearsals, staged readings, and open mics. It was a wonderful creative found space for our mainstage shows. We got to rent out the space for low cost to other marginalized artist and I always felt so good and aligned handing out the door code to renters. Gadfly made four really stellar events of our own in the space, and we partnered with other creators to make their dreams come true too. Longtime Gadfly fans had an amazing time knowing where to find our provocative work. Gadfly is meant to be a theatre company that has four walls. (I tried to make a pun here about the fourth wall. It didn't work.) My business partner and I are meant to run a space.
So no one was more surprised than us when we decided to shutter it suddenly in late June, with a move out date only two weeks later. The "what happened" isn't important for the purposes of this blog, but the whole sudden move out process moved around a bunch of stuff in my soul, and these are the reminders and lessons I felt fit to share.
- Holy wow, stop and take stock of your growth once in awhile. Manny (my business partner) and I just kind of decided to get a space, and then one fell into our laps. There's a whole bunch of spiritual sentiment wrapped up in that too (manifesting works y'all), but the main takeaway was this: For eight years Manny and I have worked almost every day creating work for this company. We have worked hard, and we have rarely complained about how hard we work at this for as little money as we do. We don't even really get that exhausted doing it. We love this company. We love theatre itself. We love the love and community our work creates, and we loved moving that into a space. So it never occurred to us that paying bills in the space might be hard (we had one hiccup but it was otherwise totally fine.) It never occurred to us that scheduling snafus, managing events we didn't produce, and a whole list of other things might drag us down (it didn't). We worked hard and steadily, and when it felt right we moved into a space. As I was moving physical objects out of the gallery I realized how silly it was that we never took a moment to be proud of ourselves for such a huge step forward.
It's a big deal to successfully run a space and create the relationships we did. I don't think I ever would have realized that without such a sudden move out, and it's an incredible reminder to look at how I've grown in the other areas of my life. I have two steady writing gigs, a steady tarot gig, and my writing and readings get better every day. I'm teaching tarot now. I mostly buy food I have to cook at the grocery store. I listen when my chronically ill body is screaming for a break. I have open, painful but real conversations with friends and family when they hurt me or I hurt them. There are so, so many ways I have grown exponentially in the past couple of years. Yet I have never fully stopped, looked around, and said "Wow, good job me" until after the gallery move out. Everyone reading--once you're done, think through where you were a year ago and where you are now. I promise you've moved forward. Congratulate yourself on growing.
- Know when an experiment is over. A year ago I was SURE I wanted a space for Gadfly to call their own in. I didn't. What I wanted was to find out if we were capable of running an arts space. I wanted to know what that would look like artistically and fiscally. I wanted an experiment. I figured that out pretty quickly upon moving in after a couple of fiascos with keys and doors being unlocked. Now? I am 1,000% positive that I want a space for Gadfly to call their own--but it took realizing it was time to step away from THIS space at THIS moment in time to realize that A) this experiment was successful, but it's over, and B) I was absolutely right about us needing a space to run. There are lots of reasons to do big, audacious things with your life. Do not convince yourself that each bold step is THE step or is meant to last forever. Sometimes an experiment is just an experiment. Your job is to know when it's done.
- Know when something is and is not for you. I can not stress this enough. While it seems like Manny and I act fast sometimes, we never do anything without at least three in depth conversations and a night or two of sleep between each one. We think through every detail, every pro and con, every possible outcome to our so-called hasty decisions. The biggest thing we weigh is "what about this are we meant to work with, and what are we meant to let go of?" A lot of letting go of the gallery came down to this example (which was one of many factors in the decision): we are a wildly inclusive company, but the bathroom in this building was down a flight of stairs. There were days my arthritis was so bad I would buy a $6 coffee next door so that I could use their bathroom and avoid stairs. If the artistic director of a company can not use it's restroom, that is not acceptible, accessibility-wise. This means people in wheelchairs, with mobility issues, or have to use a restroom urgently and suddenly could not comfortably come to our shows. This was a huge problem, and my guilt over the situation increased as our popularity in the space grew. So running a space is definitely for us. Running a space without easy restroom access is not.
This lesson can and has been applied over other areas of my life even since shutting down the space. Certain kind of client questions are not for me, and I can refer them to someone else when they come up. That doesn't mean I'm not a superb reader, it just means I know I'm not best suited to some questions. As much as we hate to admit it, a lot of our happiness does come down to the choices we are making. I am in no way shutting down how hard mental and physical illness, societal oppression, or actually toxic situations make our life. Please note I said A LOT of our happiness comes from our decisions, not all of it. My advice for ANY choice is to get super clear on what works for you and what doesn't first.
- I would also add to the above note, especially since I did mention external pressures and pain: know when you're making a choice. Full disclosure? We did have some expected funding fall through, and that was a factor in making the decision to close the gallery. It was not, however, THE decision making factor. Shutting down the space was 100% our choice. We had enough resources and renters to keep going, and it was an incredibly hard decision to reach. One message that keeps coming to me spiritually is one to own my choices, and acknowledge when I am able to make one. In all of my careers it is sometimes easy to feel like things have been thrust upon me, but that isn't the reality nearly as often as I would like it to be. Usually I am given a choice. Figure out what the choice or decision is, and be aware you are making it.
- Be grateful. Be grateful. Be grateful. This gallery, started by a dear, dear friend of mine was incredibly special. I met my current group of friends that I see the most and consider the closest there, long before it was mine. I fell desperately in love, and then harshly, quickly, angrily out of love in this space. It has been an unendingly vocal space about shaping my art and my life. I created really magical artwork there, and so did so many other fabulous people. I am sentimental to a fault and I had a three day sadness spiral about the space dissipating. But now I'm just so ecstaticly happy that I got to be a part of it and a curator for it, even for the small space in time that it was. There is a not an area of my life where I can slack off on gratitude right now--and that alone, is more than enough reason for the gratitude itself.
- Look ahead. There is so much New Age philosophy about staying present, and it's not wrong. Until you can look around and enjoy where you are, you probably aren't going to move forward in leaps and bounds. However, the way you close an experiment is by looking into your actual future. Gadfly is building a proper, working board of directors and otherwise taking it easy for the year outside of producing events. In approximately one year we'll start looking for a semi-permanent space. If those plans weren't in place before we made this decision, who knows how long we would have waffled or if we would even have made the right decision. There is no use staring into the future and hoping for better without enjoying the work you're doing to get there. There's also no use in pretending the future doesn't exist.
That's it for me and the Multi-Passion Diary today y'all! Sending so much love and light until next time.