So, let’s back up a little bit before the first year of exhibitions. The very first exhibit, The Art of War, was slated to open on a Friday night. The week leading into the big day, we were putting finishing touches on the gallery space. I got some fancy plexiglass from Ax-Man, a surplus shop in St. Paul, to cover printed letters and began to install the “A-l-t-e-r-e-d E-s-t-h-e-t-i-c-s” sign. The artwork was hung and lit with care, artist statements proofed and printed.
I was hanging our sign letter by letter when a man approached me with an apologetic look on his face and an envelope in his hand. He introduced himself with an empathetic tone, after which he presented a thirty-day notice. The building had been sold, and with it the rights we had to the space.
I have this dramatic, somewhat tragic photo of the sign half-hung on the wall before the door, paused in installation after I received the news. I finished hanging it the following morning—you know, once I collected the pieces of my shattered dreams from the floor.
The very first opening, though momentous, was a little bittersweet. A lesson learned for me: no matter how nice the owner seems, having a solid, lawyer-vetted lease is probably a good idea when starting a new business venture to make sure the rug isn’t pulled out from under you.
Altered Esthetics wound up staying in the building for a few more years, a combination of the new owner’s generosity and his plans for the space itself, which shifted over time.
This post is adapted from It’s Never Going To Work: A Tale of Art and Nonprofits in the Minneapolis Community with illustrations by Athena Currier. Post graphics by Jamie Schumacher. ©2018 Jamie Schumacher.
It’s Never Going To Work is a light-hearted, illustrated book that offers real-life insights on founding a community space and nonprofit. It provides tools, tips, resources, and camaraderie to community organizers and anybody attempting something new.