Time for what? Time is spent too much in passing and not in the moment. Today was a very emotional day, with very real emotions that I have not yet addressed, emotions that I have not become complete with. So tonight I am not going to be sharing about great business in Largo, or how wonderful I think Largo is, because you already know how I feel. Today, I share something different. I share…. me.
I spend a lot of time pushing up other people, boasting about the incredible talent within our community, the fabulous City of Largo and all it contains; the amazing people that live and work here, the officials and staff that help make this place fit such a label. What I avoid sharing is the negative feelings, the feelings of sadness and disappointment. These feelings are very real and very present, not just for me, but for many.
On February 20,2013, Wandering Star Gallery was born. This concept was brought to life in Downtown Largo, in my hometown. It was not an easy task by any means, but nonetheless, was proud of what I had accomplished. The endless nights painting, learning how to lay wood floors to cover up the glittery sparkles on the floor, creating a home for artists and a place to bring the community together. The mission was simple: bring people together through art, music and food with no judgement and only freedom of creativity, while attempting to preserve what was left of our history.
Here is a video that I shot my first day of painting, after running through Downtown.
The opening was fantastic! People came from all over to celebrate my dream come true, but within a few short months the foot traffic had slowed to a dangerously quiet level. I had been offering some art classes, open mic nights and open studio times, but some days the tumble weeds were dragging me to the ground. Shortly thereafter, I began offering complimentary cups of locally roasted coffee, because there are no ‘local’ coffee shops anywhere in the direct area besides Starbucks. Many stopped in for the joe, ended up more about the conversation. With the full intention of bringing the fresh./mixed market back to Ulmer Park, I stayed focused on this by starting the sidewalk sale in front of the gallery, preparing for the fall.
The summer months I had a group of pre-teen girls creating art with me all day. Together, we created the “Hands of Largo” wall, 9 girls who had to paint only one hand, high five another girl and them put their handprints all over the wall surrounding the giant letters LARGO.
Toward very end of summer, around September, I experienced my first heart tear. My baby, the gallery, had been broken into. None of the art was touched, the entry was from the back door. I could not recall if I had actually locked it or not, since the night before I hadn’t left until almost 3am. I felt violated and broken. The only that had been stolen was a few hand tools I had left on my desk and my cash box that contained all of my rent. It was due a few days before and the panic out-weighed the anger. Now unable to pay the rent and only a few weeks to put together an event that I had been building up all year about seemed impossible with the added burden of the financial strain of the shop. I did what I do best, I picked up and carried on.
October 14, 2013 the Largo 2nd Saturday Market was open for business. It started with a only few vendors, mostly of which were artists who had artwork in the gallery. It was a one-woman show and could hardly find the time to eat or spend time with my family let alone anything else. During the breakdown of the market, knowing in just a few days I would have to be out of town for a week or so to care for my mother who was scheduled to have an intense spine surgery, I looked at this as an opportunity to slow down.
I decided to take a bus to see her, all the way from Tampa, Fl to Hutchinson, Kansas. A long bus ride in deed. I was looking forward to it. Crusty eyed, only carrying one small bag of clothes and a bag of my art supplies, I boarded the bus ready for 48 hours of isolation for reality. I could live in this temporary space of controlled chaos and step out of my identity for just a moment. Somewhere overnight after reboarding in Birmingham, I realized I was going to have to close the shop. My dad had helped me a great deal, and I didn’t want to disappoint him. After all, I had something to prove…. to myself. I started to write a list of all the reasons I should stay open, and a list of reasons I should close. The list of reasons to close seemed to make more sense than the irrational reasons to stay open.
The reasons I decided to close (aside from the immediate lack of revenue) was to be IN the community. It was my mission to make a difference and to bring the community together. Being inside of a boundary, a building with walls, made it a difficult challenge in a redevelopment area that hadn’t been known for art related stuff. That is what the market was for. So on November 5, 2013 I locked Wandering Star Gallery’s doors for the last time. The emotions hadn’t set in, after all, we were still moving things and tired.
Since the closing, I have been able to laser focus on the growth of the market. I have been able to reach out to people I otherwise would not have been able to. And I am busy. Now unable to pay the rent and only a few weeks to put together an event that I had been building up all year about seemed impossible with the added burden of the financial strain of the shop.
Today I was interviewed by Baynews9, I was nominated for a segment they call “Everyday Hero”. I couldn’t understand why. I don’t do anything what I would consider out of the ordinary. I just see the potential in things and try to help others see that potential, whether it be in themselves, in an art form, in another person, or in a City. I help pull back the layers of crud. I do not consider myself a hero, by any means. But I was ready (sort of) to share my passion about helping others achieve their potential, their greatness, and making space for others to witness that greatness as well. What I was not ready for was the emotion I had yet to deal with. The real sadness and heart break it was to close the gallery. My feet have not touched that sidewalk since the day I closed. My heart aches every time I drive by. Today when I was interviewed I was asked about the gallery and I didn’t realize how sad it actually made me to sit across the street and see the vacant darkness. While I know everything happens for a reason, and whatever it is, is bigger than ourselves.
I love what the market is bringing to Largo. I am excited to see so many people coming from all over the state to be a part of something so special. It hurts my heart to be just another closed shop in Downtown Largo. There is too much potential in this town to let it die. There are too many before me that weren’t able to make it.
I cannot sit back and do nothing. Tough on the outside, tender on the inside. While I attempt to suck back the liquid that forms in the eye holes, I can’t. It has bothered me deeply to have closed. There is too much passion and determination in this body of mine to just let it end.
This market is a small extension of that. So in case you weren’t aware (and some people were still unaware) Wandering Star Gallery closed November 5, 2013. I am in the community and trying my hardest to do freelance work and to be able to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. Now what?