Beginning to End

This was originally posted by Audra Almond-Harvey on Facebook; we’re re-posting here for posterity.

It’s time for another too-long-for-Facebook post, y’all. Hunker down and get comfy. Might want to pour yourself something.

Finishing what you begin is hard work.

Anyone can start something. And honestly, a lot of people can even slug through the middle parts. It’s when you start heading up and down the last few hills, when your muscles are burning and your brain is out of pep talks and you can’t remember why you thought this was a good idea that many people quit.

And it’s hard being an artist in a culture in which the greatest monetary value is often placed on the items that are the most fleeting in usefulness or meaningfulness. A new iPhone is out every year, and people shell out for those; convincing someone to buy a painting that will keep value for a lifetime is hard work. Sometimes impossible work. And I’m not saying money is the only way to assign value, but it sure would be nice to have some extra, especially while you’re taking on a huge creative risk.

This weekend, we’re debuting David Landry‘s project, Th3 Anomaly. I’m sure you’ve seen all sorts of posts about it, and thanks for letting us blow up your newsfeeds, btw.

You’re going to see 321 finished paintings, assembled together to tell a one-of-a-kind story, all hand-painted by David. You’re going to walk through the lovely halls of Houston Station by Events Nashville and end up inĀ abrasiveMedia, and as lovely as those halls are (and as grateful as we are to creatively reside in them), they won’t tell you the whole story.

They won’t tell you the over four years that David has poured his soul onto all of those canvases during countless evenings and weekends,often working into the wee hours of the morning. They won’t tell you about all of the models, costume makers, artisans, promoters, graphic designers, proof readers, printers and photographers who pooled their time and helped make something beautiful happen. They won’t tell you about our landlords, who took a chance on us and gave us the means to make a creative home for our fellow artists, when no one else would or could.

They won’t tell you about the illnesses and injuries and bills and new careers and job losses that happened in the years that this project was in development. They won’t tell you about all the times David wanted to quit, Kelly wanted to quit, I wanted to quit, heck, everyone wanted to quit, because it seemed like we were making a very beautiful thing that everyone thought sounded cool, but most (not all) people wanted to wait and see if it could really happen before supporting it.

The walls can’t tell you all about the nights of delirium and giggles, the weeks of tears and frustration, the hours upon hours of rehashing the same conversation to make sure the whole team was on the same page.

The walls and halls can’t speak to what it takes to pull something like this off, while working in professional relationships that also cross over into friendships. I am personally quite proud that I can say in full honesty that there isn’t a single body we needed help getting rid of. We are 100% homicide free for this project, folks.

And our halls certainly can’t tell you, all by themselves, about the moments of pure joy we’ve found along the way. About the nerdy artist kids at conventions who told us they had waited their whole lives for something like this, about the grown-up nerdy artists who began watching David’s progress with some excitement mixed with cynicism, and then cautious optimism, and then infectious giddiness that this was really going to happen. About the people who got it and gave us way more favor and open doors and materials and support than we could possibly pay them back for. About the people who don’t get art at all and didn’t have any money to give but helped how they could, or how the whole thing was funded on a tiny fraction of what it should have cost and how it was paid for by people who for the most part weren’t rich at all, but loved the idea. Or how in these last few months people have come out of the woodwork to help us finish, print, and promote the work.

The paintings themselves do not display the literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into making Th3 Anomaly a real thing. They tell an adventure story, about an inventor who dreamed the impossible and then made it happen, and the friends who joined him on his journey.

That actually sounds familiar, now that I’m thinking about it.

David has his own story to tell, and I hope he tells it (maybe after taking an extended vacation:p), because being a creator and a project lead conveying his vision to dozens of volunteer laborers is a heartbreaking and exhausting and wonderful thing.

My story is that our little organization that could has offered what little it had to help keep four dance companies, two years of art shows, a couple of books, an album that died once and is coming back to life, a few outreach programs, and a 321-painting graphic novel moving forward towards completion. This is the first stand alone project to grow all the way up, and I’m thus feeling a little maudlin, a little nostalgic, a little happy. And a lot tired. And our work is just beginning.

We could not have pulled this off on such a small budget without the help of everyone who has helped us along the way. And we’re really fucking grateful for you, and we’ll be even more grateful after several nights in a row of sleep. And some rum, and whiskey, and even more tea, and lots and lots of Netflix.

So when you come join us this weekend, and I hope you do, because it will be open the whole month of February but this Saturday is David’s graduation celebration, so to speak — when you are surrounded by his awe-inspiring work, remember the process.

And if you have a take-away from the evening, other than the truth that life would be better with real air-ships, and every story needs more ninja-pirates, I hope that it’s this:

When you start your big idea, there will be a lot of naysayers who will try to talk you out of it. How many people finish what they start, they might say, and don’t you think that you could just take up a hobby like bird watching or something, something real easy to pass the time, and why don’t you have a few more drinks here with me while I tell you all the ways it can’t be done. If I might get even more Southern than I already have while telling this story, they’re just crabs in a bucket, trying to pull you down.

But if you share your story with your community, ignore the naysayers, keep the people who believe in you close, allow people to join you in your process, and meet your vision with tenacity and pure bull-headed stubbornness despite the (possible) (likely) lack of fame and fortune, there will be way more supporters at the finish line than there were naysayers at the beginning.

The beautiful thing about David’s project being up on the walls all at once is that you can walk down the hallways and see his progression as a painter, one painting at at time. That is a story our walls will tell you, and it’s a gorgeous one.

So I hope to see you all, at the finish line. We’re going to throw you a classy party. And then, when it’s all done, this team is doing some shots.

Thank you to the entire abrasiveMedia community. We’re thanking you individually in the credits, but for now, this one’s for everybody.

And David — there are no words to express how incredibly proud of you I am.