Stressing The House

There are cracks in the drywall of our headquarters as we strive to build a solid foundation upon which our figurative spawn will stand to create and make art and change their lives. The cracks come from the stress of combining so many elements under one roof but it’s a 1943 tract home that has been designed with wire mesh inbetween it’s walls to withstand the shakes, twists and slams that a home gets, in order to keep it’s family safely sleeping at night.

Even when those nights end at day. Even when those nights have characters coming and going, trying to front for us that everything is cool, only to leave and explode in the streets or at a friend’s house, or at their baby mamma’s pad. Even when those days have no one in the house but the pressure to keep the house paid for and the lights on, come to a point and the point is foreclosure or a turn of the water spigot indicating a dry bank account. Even when one door closes and another one looks sealed shut.

There are times when our life at Off The Wall so resembles on the surface those artist’s lives whom we are dedicated to that I wonder why they trust us when we say they will make something of their lives better than where they are now. What are our markers of success that has them trusting? Sure we have them, but they don’t really know what they are and can’t relate to how we got there unless we can get them on their viable path.

And we need viable ways to be financially sound or we won’t have a track record in front of them better than the one they left.

When we say we make art and change lives we mean that we give artists a chance to create and by doing so, their lives are altered. But it takes something for them to stay altered. It takes something to “take on their lives” and move it to another course when at home they hear “Why do you want to go to school? It’s expensive! We need you working!” Or, when they are in a custody battle over their second child with a second mamma, who is not yet out of high school and they need to move in with their mother who now has custody of said child, instead of live with us and make art – because that is what they actually should do instead. Sometimes, their lives pull them back into a fray that is designed to keep them on a different path.

We say they can go to college. But they forget to ask for help on their FAFSA or they talk to their buddy who said that trade tech is the easiest way to go. And down they go on a road that doesn’t include taking figure drawing or color theory. Instead they forget to wake up to go class because it’s boring and not interesting to be in a classroom learning about ex-rays when one time you were promised an art class by people like us. Then they drop out or get kicked out of school one more time, mounting the hill again called, “School Sucks”. And back down the rabbit hole everyone goes because the parental unit thought money was coming in soon, the artist thought maybe they could go down a quick path to solve that and the streets pull them back into a community that has the same story to tell each other about “fucking teachers” and “fucking parents” and “fucking baby mamas”.

None of them in those circles get to say, “fuck figure drawing” or “I hate 2-D design!” They don’t get into their talent and they don’t change their lives.

But they come back to us as though there is some hope left. Another road that they heard with us that maybe it’s not too late to get on. To them we open up the hope one more time, to look at the next move that it’s not too late to make.

It’s a cautionary tale unless they are really interested in making their lives change. Their habits and stories are strongly rooted in negative ways. Their mastery deeper in lying and fronting. Their route to becoming a vandal for life, more eminent.

We don’t change their lives. We give them a life to live and by living it amongst us, as we do it, their lives will change… but sometimes they look at us as though we have a magic wand. To that look I want to say, “Open your eyes guys, look at what we are doing.”

I know they can see. We put in the time. We tell the truth and do what we say. We clean house. We ask them to too. We want them here and we want to live amongst them. Our efforts are to rise also. We have aspirations for the work that we do. We hope that it shows them how hard we work for our own goals too.

We never waiver that higher education is the path to owning our home. Maybe after all their easy routes are exhausted they will stop trying to skirt the system, and call it wrong and bad but see it for the road it offers. A place to live in, not just stay at.

Every home owner knows that cracks in the drywall just mean that the house is adjusting to a new position and that with a little mud, sanding and paint everything will look brand new again. For now though, the cracks are visible so we can see what is stressing us out. It’s healthy to know where our limits are and the structure will hold while we learn.


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