Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Life is so interesting I cannot imagine suicide, if only in order to find out what happens next.

I am sorry for this rambling content, but there are many things I want to say. After a very difficult couple of years, experiencing the complete collapse of the Florida housing market and its related economies (including the gallery market) I went for a drive. A long drive.

As many of you who follow our undertaking know, I circumnavigated most of the US, towing a U Haul trailer, returning paintings, visiting artists, looking at markets in which to open an alternative location to our beloved but beleaguered Sarasota.

I settled on Charleston & this week (Internet provider gods willing) we will open a new gallery at 11 Broad Street in the heart of the historic gallery district.

We had not intended to exit Sarasota, but after some long and hard business discussions with our selves & our landlord, we decided to close our location at 16 S. Palm. It saddens us to finally throw in the towel, but we simply cannot continue to accrue losses. Our landlord has been very gracious and we have many beloved friends, customers, artists and fans that have supported our efforts to bring aesthetically beautiful representational art to the region.

We simply cannot continue in Sarasota. We know for a fact people came from across the state & the region to visit our gallery and enjoy the salon-like atmosphere we have created here in Sarasota. It saddens us to leave, but frankly we need a more nurturing environment with a healthier economy. Our street was torn up again this past week, and the city seems bent on making it as difficult as possible to conduct business downtown.

I was shocked at the difference in Charleston, in terms of business climate & economic climate. There actually are people bustling on the streets down town, working, shopping, eating out, laughing, and buying art.

Charleston treasures their galleries and understands the draw they are for the entire region. The city of Charleston sponsors countless art focused festivals & events and every effort is made to expedite business permits and support local merchants. It would be unheard of to block off a busy merchant street for weeks on end as has happened to us over and over again in Sarasota.

It would be unheard of to turn the historic downtown of Charleston into a canyon of high rises with accelerated wind tunnels blowing customers literally off the streets as has happened to us in Sarasota.

The city of Charleston aggressively advertises & promotes their art district; its merchants work hard and advertise nationally as a unified body to bring people to the community. We started our business life in Sarasota as a city full of galleries. We are down to a small handful, certainly not enough to justify a monthly gallery walk. We have lost the critical mass required to create the kind of retail cluster we need.

My home is in Sarasota, & I love the city & my neighbors. I fuss like an old lady over the dismal prospects for the housing market & employment. I cannot see how a recovery can be in the offing for at least a decade…we cannot hold on that long, no matter how much I wish it was different.

So, we are moving to Charleston. We think, hope & pray this will be a better environment for us. We are so sad to leave, but we simply do not know what else to do.

While packing and unpacking I have found great comfort in a favorite poem by Wisconsin Poet Laureate Ellen Kort:

Moving Slightly Left From Center

Once every five year Uncle Jake

Gave it all away cleared out

The house moved everything

From shelves out of cupboards

Letting go he called it

Starting over clean as clouds

They laughed when he came to the door

With boxes of mason jars old books

His collection of wishbones

He knocked on the window

Held up quilts spread his arms

Wing-wise offering his new blue jacket

And then there he’d be

In that emptiness only the bed left

Like some crumpled wounded animal

Like something waiting at the bottom

Of sleep The bareness I remember

As a child how lonely it felt

How afraid I was that he was getting ready

To die that this hungry house

Would swallow him leave me trying

To digest the way lives fill and empty

They gather up through long dry summers

Gulping the daililness spitting out

Thick heavy vowels worry words

That link us to that one place

We’re sure we can never leave

I think of you now Uncle Jake

As I measure myself against what I know

Will come the air in this house

Rubs against me like a grateful cat

Purrs darkness out of corners and crevices

Uncle Jake your voice lies damp

Your bones swing easy inside my flesh

Packing packing this heart an open box.

I think Charleston will be great. I hope everyone will come & visit us there. It is a lovely city. We will miss Sarasota, the sun, our friends, the water dancing in the sunlight.

Packing packing this heart an open box.