For Once A Silver Lining
Turning Disappointments Into Opportunities
It’s September 7th, 2022, two days before I leave for a three-week adventure to Svalbard and a workshop I am running on the M/V Stockholm. I’m excited to be heading to Svalbard after three years of cancelled trips due to COVID. This is going to be a great trip with good photographers, a fine ship and two excellent guides. All was good until . . .
That afternoon, I received an email with a boiler plate PDF letter attached informing me that I need to vacate my studio, as the construction company that has been renovating the building needs to run ductwork and pipes through my suite. They have no other similar size space available and I would need to be out by the 21st of October. That’s what I call a downer letter. I received no phone call and just a bit over 30 days notice, 21 days of which I’ll be in Svalbard doing a workshop. They must have known they were going to do this but waited until the last minute to tell me. There are similar stories through out the rest of the building with other artists.
My first emotion was that I was truly and fully pissed. After eight years in the Stutz Building, I thought I was settled, and I restructured my business to be part of the new 80 million dollars of renovation going on in the building.
I went from a gallery type of business which worked pretty well pre-pandemic to a teaching classroom business for the future. We invested heavily in tables, chairs, desks, monitors, color print inspection station and we thought this would be perfect for Fine Art Printing workshops and post processing classes. The only thing holding us back from aggressively marketing it was the resurgence of the pandemic and hesitancy to putting eight or more people in the same space for a few days.
The building’s renovations were to have a first floor with restaurants, bars, coffee and pastry shop as well as other little boutique type businesses. This would have been perfect for someone who wanted to take a break and grab lunch or a coffee, as all they had to do was go downstairs and grab it without leaving the building. It all seemed like a good plan.
Well, all the above got squashed, and the hunt was on to figure out what to do. I spent days making phone calls looking for new space and there was not a lot to be found, especially at a cost I could afford.
Debra and I started packing portfolios and a lot of stuff and started to integrate it into our home. Worst-case scenario, I would store everything in the garage until we found a new place. I still believed doing classroom workshops had potential. I have a man cave that is nicely set up with my camera gear and some printers. Maybe we could be creative and use this space more.
I had a lot of stuff at the studio. No matter what, it would be great to thin it out. You can read about our studio in the following links. You can see there is a lot and it would take a lot of effort to move it wherever we went.
As you can see, we had a pretty good gig going, and it was a fun place to visit and hang out. We made a lot of videos there of many things, especially our printing series. You can find those on our YouTube Channel. Needless to say, we were sad to leave.
The Stutz Building Is Sold
The Stutz building that our studio was in was sold about two years ago. The previous owner, Turner Woodward, was one of those special human beings. He loved the arts and encouraged artists to move into the Stutz. Rent was affordable and there was a magic feel to belonging in the Stutz. There was an artist community, and it was really a very special place and time to be part of this. But, as with all good things, change is inevitable.
The new buyers, Somera Road, had big plans. And, after our first Zoom call meeting with them, many of us realized the plans didn’t include artists, even though they gave us lip service to show they wanted us.
Today, the building is under major construction. Whole floors have been gutted and there are only a few artists hanging on. The buildings when they are finished will be incredible and a landmark for the city, but unless you are a rich artist you most likely won’t be there.
Fate And The Solution – Being At The Right Place At The Right Time
My life has been a series of being at the right place at the right time and each of these times has led to a career changing move. I have never had to make a resume as people found me, knew of what I was doing and they offered me some extraordinary positions. That kind of fate found me again.
Michael Durr, my video producer (you have all seen his work) called me and asked me to meet him for a coffee at the Indianapolis Arts Center. Michael is one of the best networkers I know. His personality is as likable as they come with a great sense of humor. He was truly concerned with our next chapter. We met and got a cup of coffee and sat down to talk about solutions and places we could go.
He said he had looked at a few spots, but they weren’t ideal solutions. He then mentioned why not see about becoming part of the Indianapolis Art Center. That sounded like a crazy idea as I wouldn’t think they would be interested, but what the heck, let’s take a walk inside and see what we find.
We went in and started down the hall and this gentleman was headed our way. Michael, with a low voice, whispered that he was Mark Williams, the President and Director of the Art Center. Let’s say hello. So, in the middle of the hallway, we said our hellos, and I made my pitch (couldn’t help myself).
Wouldn’t it be cool for the Arts Center to have a whole fine art printing set up that could be integrated into their curriculum while at the same time allow me to bring groups in for instruction for my workshops – kind of like the ultimate win-win. Mark Williams, the President and Executive Director, saw it the same way. We concluded our quick hallway meeting by scheduling a meeting at my Stutz location where I could show Mark and Austin Weber, Program Manager for Digital & Video, my current set up and discuss how we could integrate it and myself into the Arts Center current and future curriculum.
The meeting went great. They quickly saw what I was doing and what I could bring with me to the Art Center. Within a week, we had another meeting with more of their team and set the date for a move. This happened really fast, and I am encouraged by the way The Arts Center could pull this off. I am so excited as there are so many possibilities. Mark Williams is not one to sit still. He and his staff helped set things up and the following Monday I hired a moving company to empty my studio and move it to the Art Center.
What was really nice and made me feel so good was how our whole family chipped in to help. Things that we weren’t moving to the Art Center, we moved home. Debra’s son and daughter, as well as their spouses along with two grandchildren and their vehicles, pulled off an amazing move one Sunday afternoon. I feel so grateful for their help, as we couldn’t have done it without them. It truly brought home the meaning of family. Oh, and let’s not forget my wife Debra, who was able to coordinate all of this. Like everything else on this project, you gotta love it when it all comes together.
The Art Center is pretty large (7000 square feet) and has been around for 90 years. It was designed by Michael Graves, a famous Indianapolis architect and is an absolute gem of a building. The studio I am moving into is large, with very high ceilings. The complex sits on 12 beautiful acres along a river. It’s quite charming. There is a huge gallery for artists and many hallways where exhibits can be hung. There is also a large auditorium that is perfect for lectures and guest speakers. I hope to invite some of my well-known photographer friends to come and give talks. In addition, there are studios for just about every art medium you could think of. A visit to their website is highly recommended and will highlight what a magnificent location this is.
There is a lot of work that still needs to be done to get the photo studio fully set up and functioning. We expect to do that over the next month. If all goes well, I should be able to announce my fine art printing classes soon, with classes starting in early 2023. MArk Williams, the president has a big vision for the Art Center and how it fits into the city and community. It’s exciting to be part of that vision.
Mark Williams shares his thought on this unique venture . “We are thrilled to welcome Kevin’s tremendous talents and expertise to our growing creative community at the Indianapolis Art Center. The depth of experience that he will bring to our students and lifelong learners will inspire beginners and professionals alike, and further support our vision to become a regional, even national, hub for the craft of photography.”
It’s been a tough few years. I seem to have had my share of challenges as we all have over these difficult times. I always try to remain optimistic and always work aggressively for answers and solutions. The photography industry has been very good to me. I have been in this field in various positions for the last 50 plus years. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do.
In 2022, while I was sad to leave the Stutz, I have found a silver lining in what many people would look at as a disaster. Being in the right place at the right time plays a big role and somehow I do find a way to find those places. I consider myself very fortunate. It’s also about vision and seeing what the future can mean and how a collaboration as I will have with the Art Center can be a win-win for all of us and especially the aspiring and passionate photographer.
Look for more information here and on rockhopperworkshops.com
P.S. I am sorry there haven’t been articles published more frequently on photoPXL recently, but between workshops and the move I just ran out of hours in the day. Now that things are settling down, I hope to increase the frequency of new content. Thanks for your understanding and patience.
Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.