The greatest challenge I overcame as a teacher was the time when we almost lost our teaching studio in the summer of 2013. I had been teaching children’s art classes, mostly in the summer, for about five years when we got the news that our studio was going to close. It was a family business encompassing art supply retail, custom framing, a fully equipped pottery studio, children’s and adult’s art classes, and painting and wine parties.
But we would have to close at the end of the summer. Our lease was up and the landlord was planning to charge so much for rent that we would never be able to pay it. No other space in New Bern would fit all of the stuff we had going on.
My mother and I were not willing to let all of our hard work go down the drain. Our community was a growing, creative town with a thriving art community. Over the past year, I’ve even heard New Bern referred to as a “Mini-Asheville” by both locals and tourists.
And we knew that our pottery studio and children’s art classes played an important role in the art community. Over the Course of that summer, we spent our days teaching summer camps at our store, trying to liquidate art supplies, helping the frame shop move out, searching for a smaller, better location, revising our business plan, and applying for an SBA Loan. We spent our nights brainstorming about how to overcome the new challenges we faced each day.
But even that wasn’t enough. We had to gather support for our new venture. We decided to reduce everything we had down to three main concepts: Pottery Studio, classes, and Painting and wine parties. I hunted for local artists interested in teaching these classes as contractors.
My mom gathered the commitments of eighteen local potters who said they would pay a year upfront for studio membership. We hunted for the right building. It took us months to find a suitable place, but by the grace of God, we succeeded.
Those were probably some of the most challenging months in my life. Everything hinged on keeping up with the deadline. We had to get the building ready by a certain time, move by a certain time, be set up, ready to go, and start operating right away. Within a month of moving in, we had to fill up four times the number of classes that we had in the old store.
It was a challenge in business, in endurance, in marketing, and innovation for all of us. But it was worth the sweat and tears. Now, we are teaching some of the best art programs in New Bern, exposing kids to real art supplies that they can’t access at school, and even offering apprenticeship programs to young adults in the community.
I realized over the few months of turmoil exactly how far I would go to offer art classes to New Bern’s kids. And when I hired my first apprentice, a graduate of SCAD who grew up in New Bern and took art classes at our store as a teenager, I realized that everything we were doing was worth it. We had made a difference in the lives of New Bern’s young artists, and we still are.
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