Friday, April 2, 2021

What a long hard year

 Not sure where to begin.  It was a terrible year for most everyone last year. I thought my life was over when everything shut down.

 I closed my art gallery and teaching studio when classes suddenly stopped.  I owed hundreds of dollars to students (and parents of students) who had reserved the next month of classes. So after the first month of using money from savings to try to stay open, I was already two months behind. 

It took over a thousand  dollars a month to stay open, that included rent, water, power, waste management, security service, internet, etc...  I did not get any government assistance, and my landlord (who had previously been the greatest landlord ever) did not work with me. Rent was due the first of May.  By the middle of April I knew I couldn't go farther in debt.  I had two weeks to move out.  

I had eight years of framing supplies and equipment, teaching supplies, and walls full of art work hanging throughout the gallery and the teaching studio. The paintings had to be boxed and wrapped for safe transport and storage.

 All the framing samples and Velcro strips had to come down in the framing show room.  That in itself was a nightmare. The miter saw and frame molding strips (8 to 10 feet long) were in the kitchen on the old wooden cabinets and shelves. The frame molding had to all be cut in half to make it manageable and then wrapped to move it and store it.  It was physically exhausting and emotionally devastating. 

My son helped me with the heavy equipment which was in the back workroom.  We put it in the garage at my house.  We put the large matting and framing table in my little studio at home as well as the paintings.  Eventually some of the paintings were hung in as many places as could be found all through my house.  (Some are still boxed and in storage in the back of the studio at home.)

  My house had always had art on the walls (not surprising), but now it was somewhat squeezed in. I thought I would not like it, but the most of the pieces my husband, Robert, and I chose were from places we had been or events we shared. It turned out to be a wonderful thing: memories and colorful art stacked on the walls all through the house.  He stops and looks at the paintings and says, "That looks really nice there." I smile big.

My studio at home has become a work space again as I have rearranged it several times to make room for my painting station and some work tables.  The framing table takes up a large amount of room, but it is nice to still be able to cut mats.  

My miter saw and under-pinner (for joining frames) are set up in the garage, so I can fill  frame orders when needed.  

I rented a small room in town for a few months to teach private lessons, and take in some framing orders.  That is how I paid back most of my students.  I still had to refund a few of them. 

I also rented a display space at a boutique (Unique Boutique in Okeechobee) for my mixed media pieces and knife paintings.  This is something I would have never considered before the pandemic, but with all the galleries closing everywhere I thought it might be a way to at least show some of my new fun pieces.  It is a nice shop: clean and inviting.  It has many different types of things to purchase.  There are a few artists, some handcrafted jewelry, some antiques, furniture, and some clothing.  It turns out people love my new pieces, and I love being a part of such a great group of people.

My home studio ended up having major work done to the exterior walls, windows and the whole door jam and door had to be replaced.  Much to my dismay, I had to move everything again and rearrange the studio once the repairs were done. It has turned out to be a better space, with room for 2 work tables and a little area for my easel. I have even done some private lessons and taken a few framing orders.

 The old building I was renting for so many years (Fawn's Studio and Gallery) was located on the left side of the building at 111 SE 2nd street, Okeechobee.  Bridgette rented a smaller suite on the right side.  It was old and run down and not very beautiful, but great for art studios and creating beautiful messes!  Well, now it has been completely gutted and renovated!  It looks amazing. The landlord repaired the structural damage and then put in handicapped parking, a ramp to the back door, and made the restrooms handicap accessible too.  He had new kitchen cabinets, counters, and floors put in, and also had new carpet put down throughout both sides of the building.  He had all of the walls painted in an off white. It looks like one building now, instead of two suites.

Now the Okeechobee  Art Alliance has set up a gallery in my old teaching studio and a gift shop where my gallery was.  They have also set up a small teaching studio on the other side of the building (where Bridgette's back room was behind her art studio).  It is remarkable to say the least.

Here is the most amazing thing: I am currently teaching for the Art Alliance a couple of days a week!  And to top it off, they are also selling some of my work on a commission basis!  It is like everything was given back to me on a silver platter and I didn't have to pay for the renovations.  I have no monthly overhead either.  Talk about stress free! 

So here I am, enjoying working from home, and still finding great opportunities to get involved.  My life isn't over after all!  I thank the Good Lord every day!

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