I've been reading these brilliant pieces on the New York Magazine website. The series is entitled Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment and it features famous people across various disciplines and their creative epiphanies. It made me recall what I would consider my breakthrough moment.
I'm not sure how many of you know, but we had a fire before we opened. I remember it vividly (I mean it's a fire, who would forget that?). What I also remember are the few hours before the fire. We had a really really soft launch and opened for our first art exhibit. I didn't want to go through with it. The space wasn't ready. There was no liquor on the shelves. The kitchen wasn't completely together. There were still a million and one things to do and I just didn't want people to see the space that way. I was't ready. This was my first time opening anything (and it had so many moving parts). I had no business opening something like this.
Up until the minute it happened, I wanted to cancel. Earl forced me to go through with it and make the best of it and we did. People showed up, the artists were happy and we sold a piece of art. It felt amazing to see this thing that I'd worked on for months come together. We stayed around in the space for a few hours later drinking bottles of leftover wine and chatting with the team. At that moment, I felt like wow, this is actually happening. This is actually real and it's awesome. I'm right where I'm supposed to be.
I went home that night elated and ready for the future. I got a call about four hours later saying that there had been a fire and the building had burned down. I was devastated. I crawled back into bed and closed my eyes and just tried to pretend like it didn't happen. After that didn't work out so well, I called Earl and told him what happened. He asked me if I was headed to the space. Up until that point it hadn't crossed my mind that I should even go. I got dressed and drove the 40 minute drive to the space in disbelief.
When I got there, I noticed the building was still standing and it gave me so much hope because it hadn't actually burned down like I was told. There was a huge hole in the ceiling, furniture covered in soot and the overpowering smell of...smoke, but there was still a building that could be fixed. (I felt like Jim Carrey's character in Dumb and Dumber where he was pestering that girl to go out with him.} The gallery space was still intact. The paintings were undamaged.
It took two years to get the space back up and running again and every time I tell people this story they always remark that they're not sure they would have stuck with it. For me, I was able to hold onto that moment of our first exhibit and remember everything just feeling right. I held onto that moment and chased that feeling. Now that we're open, I realize that the fire is what helped prepare me for what it would take to run this thing.