What to do when your Happy Bubble bursts

I learned a lesson today: always call before you show up at a small, out-of-the-way art gallery, even when they advertise an exhibit. The place might be locked and dark. This is the downside of being adventuresome—like Geraldo Rivera finding nothing but cobwebs in the alleged secret vault of Al Capone, you sometimes wind up at a dead end, forced to apologize for hyping up the mission and then wasting everybody’s time….

On the air yesterday, I declared today (Sunday, February 26) to be Happy Bubble Sunday, a name I invented for a fun-filled afternoon. My group of friends coming from the rock opera My Green Eyes at Judson Church (which was, in fact, sold out as I reported), along with any listeners who dared, were to meet at Stevens Square Center for the Arts for the last hour of an advertised exhibit called The Happy Show, featuring the cheerful work of seven visual artists, including Keiko Yagishita, whose sweet “Above the Clouds” print of a boxer pup was featured in promotional materials. I thought it fitting that after such levity, we should all enjoy some bubble tea. (I learned to love the stuff in China. Slurping pea-sized tapioca pearls through big, fat straws from frothy drinks is fun!) Thus, Happy Bubble.

However, when co-pointwoman Jill Nicholson and I arrived at Stevens Square, we found it shuttered. Naturally we went next door to Third Avenue Market to see if the proprietors knew anything. They didn’t—but they’d seen a group of women just before us who were equally confused. (Sincere apologies to any who were led astray by my well-meaning but not well-executed plan.)

Where were they? ——>

At least we can look forward to The Tea Garden, I thought, although I’d never been there either. I was getting the munchies and dreaming of a mango and ginger tea concoction with all those chewy bubbles at the bottom. During the drive, I called the rest of the group, and Jill called home. “Why are you going to the Tea Garden?” her teenage daughter asked, adding, “That’s where my friends and I hang out.” We decided to check it out anyway, and sure enough, every table was filled with young sprouts doing homework on their laptops. We picked through a pile of postcards touting CD release parties and gallery openings, then bailed.

More rounds of phone calls. By now we were seriously hungry, and everyone else had gone home, so Jill and I headed for a place we knew we’d find both great food and like-minded adults: Café Barbette.

We were greeted at the door by the aroma of salty pommes frites. It took us all of 90 seconds to put in our order for those, along with squat little cans of Wittekerke Belgian white beer (much like Blue Moon) with lemon slices. Waddling out after spicy tomato and squash stew poured over a mound of Israeli couscous (bubbles!), I had to admit that happiness was mine after all. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we’d shared dining space with eye candy Bill Summerville, GM of La Belle Vie (whose date we didn’t interrupt, although we were tempted), and with a gorgeous specimen whom we might have invited to our table, had we been more alert. Puts a girl in a good mood, nevertheless! (As did the kind young mechanic at Steve’s Tire & Auto at 46th and Nicollet who replaced my burned-out headlight and filled my tires with air at 15 minutes ‘til closing time on my way home tonight.)

So all is well. When life bursts your bubble, blow another one, I guess. But…you have my word, dear readers/listeners, that next time I invite you to see art, I will make sure the art is there for us to see!*

*Rest assured I’ve e-mailed Stevens Square Center for the Arts to ask what happened, and I’ll let you know how they reply.

February 28, 2006 - 23:54
anne says:

Kudos to the board chair of SSCA for her prompt reply to my inquiry (within 48 hours). I wrote to her at 9:30pm on Sunday night and received this e-mail at 4:22pm today (Tuesday):

Dear Anna, Call me sensitive, but my name is Anne with an “e”!

I am very sorry for your unpleasant experience while attempting to visit the Stevens Square Center for the Arts! The Happy Show was supposed to be…well happy and perhaps no one is more disappointed than me that it didn’t turn out that way for you and your friends. I am writing to you on behalf of the SSCA membership as the board chair person, and also as the curator of this particular show.

While there is no excuse for our gallery being closed during posted hours, it may ease discontented feelings for me to provide a little background on the organization itself. Stevens Square Center for the Arts is a struggling art center spurred on by the Stevens Square Neighborhood Organization. We opened a little over two years ago on an idea and a vacant space and have grown to include exhibitions, studio spaces and community programs including The Red Hot Art Fair, an annual Zine festival and various other events and programs. We have a commitment to serve the neighborhood and the arts community by making high quality arts experiences accessible to all, and thus providing local artists with support and opportunities. We host visual art as well as music, dance, literary arts and public art. The catch is we have absolutely no financial support other than rent from the studios, art sales, and donations. All of our staff are completely volunteer. All of our exhibitions, programs, and day to day upkeep is achieved on a volunteer basis, including the staffing of gallery hours. My advice: If you can afford to be open only three days, be open only three days. Don’t promise to be open for a month and then suddenly vacate the premises. At least update your website out of courtesy to the art-loving public!

We are currently embarking upon a new stage of growth. The first few years consisted of us trying to “figure it all out”, (no one had any official experience running a non profit org!). We have recently applied for our 501c3 status and will soon be applying for a general operating grant so that we can at least have one part time staff person, to staff gallery hours among other things. As the newly elected board chair it is my focus to streamline all of our volunteer energy into an organized system in order to avoid what happened to you and your friends the other day.

I’m sure I gave you too much information when all I can really offer is a humble apology, although I give you this back ground because I am genuinely excited about the potential and uniqueness of the
Stevens Square Center for the Arts and I sincerely hope you will visit us again!

The next show will focus on 3-D art! If you would like a private personal tour of the show please feel free to contact me. Hmmm, should I or shouldn’t I? Am I being too hard on this poor little gallery? What do you think? Add your comments below! (Frankly, the people I feel sorry for are the artists whose work we didn’t see. A loss for all concerned.)

Thank you for your time,

Melinda R Hobbs
Board Chair
Stevens Square Center for the Arts

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