On this day, just a little over a year ago, a crazy idea began to form in my head. It was on this day that I discovered that creative reuse centers existed out there in the world, but just not in Houston.
Also on this day, a little over a year ago:
1. I was one month free of my decades-long service to a company I had left when I finally accepted I could no longer be successful there by my own standards.
2. I was savoring my few-weeks-old MBA from the University of Texas’ Houston program, where two years of hard work and revelation helped me to understand what my standards for success even are, and, more importantly really, what they’re not. And many thanks to Prof John Doggett and others for beating me about the head and shoulders until I finally looked up and saw the light.
3. I was knee deep in piles of my grandparents’ things, saved for me by my mother when their house was sold in Columbia, SC, and newly transported back to my house in Houston, where I would … what? Make something out of them? Way too much stuff to ever use, but things I couldn’t throw away, but which I couldn’t imagine Goodwill would take – weird old garage stuff and odd pieces of things and broken stuff and the miscellaneous dribbles of a long life. But, they were unpacked and piled around my living room and hallway and dining room, just sitting there for days on end.
So, I decided to make something. But, I still lacked some materials, so I headed off to Home Depot to buy them. While I’m standing in line with a bunch of new stuff that I’m going to take home and break or rust or otherwise render useless, I think that this is stupid and there must be a place that has what I need. So, I turned to Google and found that there are such places, but just not in Houston.
Serendipity, Rick Besanko would call it. Or, kismet, a message from the universe or The Great Gazoo — whatever it was, I was finally in a place to get the message, see the signs, and embark on this crazy scheme.
Fast forward to August 7, 2010. I am standing in G Gallery, attending the opening of Brian Neal Sensabaugh’s “Bless My Sole”. I first met Brian Neal when he came into the store about a week after we opened, although “met” doesn’t really do it justice. It’s more like he finally arrived, or took us all hostage, or electrified us one Saturday afternoon. He had an idea for an assemblage series that involved shoes and feet, all of which we had in massive quantity. We also had old wooden shoe forms and beat up old dolls and vintage doilies and my grandfather’s crutches, which he used after being shot while making an arrest in Columbia, SC in the 1950’s, and which had been in the rafters of his garage ever since. Anyway, Brian Neal loved what we had, and we loved him (and James). We laughed, we cried, and then we laughed some more.
Brian Neal found the Texas Art Asylum in the following way:
1. I had sent out a metric ton of press releases around Earth Day, letting a number of media outlets know we would be opening in May. These were met with a resounding snore by each media outlet except one lady who wrote for Tidbits, who suggested I get back in touch when we were actually open.
2. So, we opened, I got back in touch, and she came by to see if we were right for Tidbits. We weren’t, but she said we could be good for a piece in the Chronicle, and she’d be back with a photographer. (Still waiting on that ….)That next Saturday, she happened to be at the Guild Shop and happened to run into Brian Neal, and told him he had been on her mind all week because she was thinking about how he would love the Texas Art Asylum.
3. He came right over. We laughed, we cried, etc.
In addition to unearthing treasures that inspired him and making several return trips, Brian Neal has become a tireless booster for our business and has told virtually everyone he knows or sees or meets in passing that they must come by and see us. He has been instrumental in our success to date, and there is no expression of thanks adequate to convey my appreciation for what he has done for us.
But, back to our story – I’m at G Gallery, at Brian Neal Sensabaugh’s opening, and I walk in the door, look up at the ceiling, and see my grandfather’s crutches hanging there as part of the very first piece I see. And, somehow, without knowing exactly how or who or when, this is exactly what I had envisioned that the still unnamed, nonspecific, WTF that would become the Texas Art Asylum could be exactly one year before. Exactly. To the day. And, the crutches, fresh from their 50 years wait in the garage and flying from the ceiling of an art gallery in Houston … there just aren’t words.