Monday, April 13, 2015

There's A Story Behind Every Story

"Beside Herself," by KC is one of the Homefront paintings
featured True and Constant Friends

I am forever fascinated with how events in life unfold. We just don't know the outcome of any given interaction, or how many people's lives will be harmed or helped.

Two years ago, on a Friday night, Jason and I went out for a bite to eat at a neighborhood restaurant called The Little Donkey. The place had recently opened and it was packed. After the cheerful seating hostess informed us of our wait time (45 minutes) we elbowed our way to an already very crowded bar to order drinks and bide our time. But before we could get the bartender's attention, J's phone vibrated and he stepped outside to take a call from the hospital where he just ended a shift.

At the time, I was holding down a full-time gig as editor for a group of monthly community magazines. By editor I mean I was a one man band. I was exhausted by the relentless churn of content. That night, I had fully intended to relax and take the night off from my reporter/community liaison/editor/art director responsibilities. I wanted a Corona and some queso fundido and a mountain of tortilla chips. But when the bartender brought me my beer, my plan was foiled.

"Have a seat next to my two favorite ladies!" said the bartender, pointing to one lone bar stool next to two older ladies who were already enjoying their margaritas and fish tacos. "Meet Thelma and Louise!"

We all laughed and I sat down. What else could I do? In quick order "Louise" asked me what I did for a living, and when I told her, she said, "You should interview Ann (Thelma) she's got a great story!"

Oh, lord, I thought, here it goes. Everyone has a story! Great. Believe me, as a community editor, I had heard some really awful "great" stories.

As it turned out, Ann did have a great story. One of the best I've heard. Ann, age 70, started an art therapy program for Birmingham's homeless community at a downtown church. She then helped the artists sell their work to create an income. She invited me to come down to Church of Reconciler to check it out.

So much for my night off. I knew a great story when I heard one. It was a story of redemption and of second chances. It was all about the underdoggiest of underdogs (the homeless), and I have always a sucker for the underdog.

We chatted for the rest of the evening and a few weeks later, I had a feature story written and photos for the cover of the April magazine.

I went out for a beer and tacos ... made a friend and wrote a story. And that sounds like a pretty good deal and enough of a story behind the story to suffice, but there's more.

A year ago in April, I pulled jury duty for the first time in my American life. While I cooled my heels in the jury waiting room, Kelley Paul's name appeared on my phone. Kelley's book proposal had been recently been accepted by Hachette Publishing and she was working feverishly to meet the impending deadlines. At Kelley's request, our five college friends and I had all contributed stories to the book about our mothers and grandmothers. The book was to be a tribute to our friendship and to the powerful women who shaped our lives. Of course, I liked the sense of karma of it all.

"I need your advice on artwork for the book,"Kelley said. "I know you know people in that world and I wondered if you might have some idea of who I could contact."

As it turns out the publisher required Kelley to supply not just the stories for the book, but all of the content, including the art. She wanted to include paintings of a feminine nature. She needed a dozen pieces — and she had to pay for them. Original artwork does not come cheap — typically.

I contemplated options. I called a gallery owner and pitched the idea of including her artists in my friend's book. "It will be great exposure," I told her. But that idea didn't fly. For one thing, not many artists have a body of work just sitting around and if they did, they —working artists anyway — would require full buy-out for the rights to publish their work. That would costs thousands.

The solution popped into my head. I googled, "homeless women artwork," and found Homefront Artspace. Within a few minutes of looking at the samples of the paintings and drawings I knew I'd found the right art source for Kelley's book. Even if these paintings had not been created by women who have sought refuge at Homefront due to domestic abuse or financial hardships, the images would have been perfect for her book. And what amazing serendipity that in one stroke lives could be improved and my friend's book completed!

Now (just a year later) on Sunday night, this beautiful artwork will be on display at the National Art Club in New York. Homefront will receive the proceeds when the pieces are auctioned off during my friend's swanky book signing.

In a wild stroke of karma (cause and effect), there are women in New Jersey (who I have never met) who will benefit because I happened to sit down on a lone bar stool on a Friday night. You just never know where a story will lead ...


  1. Wonderful blog, Brigid! I actually am reading "True and Constant Friends: right now and that is how I found your blog. I'll follow you because I like your style.