If I could change one thing...Part 1

Recently, a friend had a post up on Facebook that asked people to answer the question, “If you could change one event/decision in life, what would it be?” Her various friends listed a multitude of regrets from college choices, to first spouse choices, and I simply wrote, “nothing.” This led, of course, to a flurry of people commenting, stating— “You never had a regret? What followed was a litany of: That’s hard to believe. “I don’t believe that for a second. And the rudest of all, “You’re full of it.” First off, I had to explain that it didn’t say, “what are your regrets?” It asked about what you would change and those are two very different answers. So, after we had that straight, it led me to explain a situation where something so small and “meaningless”, led us to our current life entrenched in blog posts, mixing paint and pricing items that my 7 year-old made!

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Back in late 2012, my husband had his head buried in phone and he would frequently say “ hold on baBA (yes a silly nickname and he is BAba), I need to finish this battle. He was playing a game called The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth and he was hooked. He quickly asked me if I would download the game and play with him, as while you can play by yourself, you can also work with others and even join a clan of others. I downloaded it and got hooked myself as we built up our cities and partnered up to support each other in battle and also provided protection for each other when we were attacked. After a bit, we decided to join up with a clan which was very active and we quickly got to know people from all over the world.

After many months of playing and building those new relationships, we ended up eventually leaving the game and, well, it ran its course for us. But, we did maintain a few of those friendships and connected with them on Facebook. Several years passed, and two of those virtual friendships stood the test of time with staying up to date on each others lives, commenting, sending private messages, etc. One of those friends, “Keylimepie'‘ who we called Key for short and her spouse “Dreadnot”, Dread for short, rented a space to do their fabulous wood working at a place called “Bell-Ans” which has an incredible history, but at it current core it is a Creative Arts Center. One day, on her way out of the building, Key, picked up a flyer which was a call for artists for an upcoming art exhibit for autistic artists and immediately took a photo of it and sent it to me.

I immediately went to the website to get more information and as I read and mentally clicked off the requirements, I reached the final line that could be a potential roadblock. It said, “The gallery will accept artworks from individuals who are 7 years old or older and will be displayed in the gallery. [sic]” What was the problem? The submission date was mid September and Remy wouldn’t turn 7 until November! Now, from looking at their site, this wasn’t a “hang up and display the developmentally challenged individuals artwork in a cafeteria for a night,” but, was a “real” gallery with a history of some incredible exhibits from the looks of it and curated by professionals in the art community. So, I had no idea if they would “bend” their rules a bit. I set off writing an email to the curator of the event, and I made my case. I explained that while Remy was only 6, he would be 7 by the time the show opened so technically he fit the criteria. I sent a sample of some coasters he had made and gushed a little about his journey. Honestly, he was still very new to creating works of art on canvas at the time! To my utter astonishment and complete joy, within in 5 minutes my cell phone buzzed, alerting me to a new email message. I opened the email application and saw that it was from the gallery and with a lump in my throat, I clicked it open and promptly started to tear up. I didn’t start to cry because he was allowed to submit a piece but because of how it was stated; “It’s a must! He MUST be exhibited! Love the birthdate! [sic] Thank you for submitting. Thank you, Phyllis,”

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I don’t think I can adequately put into words what I was feeling in that moment. As parents, we are always proud of anything our children do and that doesn’t change regardless of what the rest of the world thinks. But, getting some validation on your child’s behalf does something to you. As soon as I read the message my fingers were pressing the speed dial to call Rob and tell him the news. You would have thought he was being shown at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. We were so proud and he wasn’t even officially “in” as he still needed to create a piece and specifically submit it for approval. If you happen to notice the dates on the email and the flyer, you would realize that we didn’t have too much time to prepare, only 12 days and he had just started creating with acrylics on canvas for only about a week, as he had been using alcohol inks on ceramic tile up until then.

So that evening, my husband, Remy, and myself took a trip to the craft store to gather supplies, including much needed acrylic pain,t as my supply was dwindling. We left with several canvases to practice on and several large bottles of acrylic paint in the basic colors. Then, we went on a quest to find a paint conditioner that was needed, but to no avail. Thankfully, a quick trip to the hardware store the following morning got us what we needed, and I was able to spend the day mixing many colors for Remy to have at his disposal. Over the next week and a half, Remy created several incredible “practice” canvases that we posted on Instagram and Facebook and we received great feedback as well as offers to purchase the art work! I’ll make a long story much shorter and just mention that a separate blog post could be written about his works’ impact on others, our decision to sell the work, and our ultimate decision to launch this website.

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We were finally ready for Remy to take the wheel, so to speak, and create a large 20” X 20” canvas. His first try was good, but it didn’t have that “wow” factor my husband and I were looking for. It was actually well received by friends, but even when we asked Remy about it, he didn’t respond to it as he typically did. We asked him “Remy, do you want to send this painting to the art show?” and he responded “No, mama, let’s try it again.” We aren’t sure if he got the full impact of what type of show we were speaking of, but they do have an art show at his school every year so he understands that people have their art on the walls and such. Regardless of what he understood, he said “no,” so we would help him “try it again.”

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We set out to do his second try a day later. And in that time, a set of squirt bottles I had ordered, had come in, which I promptly filled up with paint as it would make Remy a little more independent with choosing and using the paints. We told him to pick 4 colors in addition to white which helped focus things a bit. Because of the size of the canvas, we had him prepare two large cups of paint and then let him “do his thing.” Watching him create was a special experience, especially when he adds flourishes after his initial pours. As soon as he was done, his excitement coupled with the image before us, told us we had the “winner”. The next day, September 17th, we woke up to a nearly dry painting, dry enough to allow it to be photographed and then officially emailed it off, for the gallery’s curators to decide its fate.

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It was a very long 2 days for Rob and I, filled with excitement and nerves on behalf of our precious little boy. Then, on September 19th, I got an email that said “Consider the submission accepted” and then “Do you think you will make the trip to NY??” So, wait, what does that mean? That means he got in, right? I’ll tell you, I second guessed that email, every day until October 3rd when we received the official email that said “Congratulations!”

Wow, could things get any better than your near seven year old child displaying his artwork in a gallery exhibit featuring some incredible self taught artists? Actually, it could….

To be continued…..