From Farm to Stable

The rise and fall of The Point.

Through the summer of 2012, I was living in a tent on a farm. It was great. I had rented a house on that farm years before. But this time, I was trying out tent life. I loved it. I’ll some day devote a full story to it.

The opportunity came to rent a house just in time to avoid October rains. Portland’s climate is kind of abrupt. You can have damn near zero rains between July 1 and September 1, but really, it just begins dumping rain by the end of September and it is relentless. My tent was protected by roped up tarps, which is good for a day or two, but without drainage, the ground eventually turns to mud.

This house (not the tent) was in the same neighborhood that I had been organizing music festivals for years, in St. Johns (near the tent). The landlord needed someone to recover damages from his previous tenants, the neighborhood party animals. He let his house get wrecked for years, without checking on the condition of it. He was chill like that.

Freshly pitched tent with canopy. The kitchen would go to the left.

My situation also demanded that I keep a commercial office for my newly expanded non-profit, InterArts, as we had just taken on the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, successfully completing the 2012 season. A work-live situation would be the most efficient way to keep me on the job for no pay. It would turn out not to be enough.

Anisha Scanlon is the person that brought the opportunity to me. She wanted an office for her own purposes. She had no money, but I was doing okay, at the time. This was a moment of mutual opportunity. She depended on me, I depended on her, so we just went for it. Anisha picked up the lead to get in the property. We all knew the previous tenants, but it was the neighbor that wanted us in there. The property included two homes, so we shared landlords with the neighbor — in fact we shared backyards.

Our mutual friend Todd Guess, at that time unemployed, was hustling his permaculture training and design skills, so he looked at this as an opportunity to consult us through it as part of his portfolio. Other community members joined us in providing materials and labor until we pulled off a minor miracle.

We managed to fully repaint the exterior of the house in October, and finish landscaping within November, as we had an unusually dry season, followed by a soaking wet winter. We shifted to the interior in the knick of time.

See more of The Point on my portfolio page.

This project significantly educated me on home construction and maintenance. This was not quite a remodel, but close to it. We painted everywhere, repaired or replaced kitchen and bath facilities, added new electrical circuits, and more. From the top down, we finished the whole job out with new flooring.

Once everything was done, I got to flesh it out with an art gallery, a complete office and multimedia suite, and workspace for up to six individuals comfortably in the offices.

The grand opening party went off well, I really believed that it was going to continue to go well. One problem began that I didn’t have time to curate the gallery and we did not gain traction to utilizing the house for revenue.

The fate of my non-profit hinged on a filing error that causes, according to an obscure detail in the Pension Protection Act, automatic revocation of federal 501(c)(3) status. Not an irredeemable mistake, but it was the straw that broke this camel’s back. It would cost us however much time would be involved with filing a new application, plus the $400 fee.

I was tortured with technical non-profit law and all the mumbo jumbo that goes on in the whole non-profit administration field, including professional backstabbing, cut throat competition, popularity contents and all that. I have more memories than I care to recall of supposedly compassionate liberals scrambling all over one another for position at some non-profit corporation. Gross.

That year, I organized for a work travel visa for the Brazilian group Ventura Trio, but the State Department delayed the application until they missed their flight. I worked 16-hour days for the full two weeks leading into and including the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, in 2013, only to have one of my headliners cock blocked by a hegemonic immigration policy. Literally within the same month, the IRS revoked our tax exempt status. I was beyond stressed out. No pay.

The way you get your executive leadership (that’s me) paid is to invite wealthy people to your Board of Directors. I required only a $25 membership fee, very low compared to most organizations. Members could waive that fee with, I think, 12 hours of volunteer time. So I attracted other poor folks to the Board.

InterArts put on No.Fest 2008 through 2011. We split, that is Jeffrey Helwig took over No.Fest in 2012 and I absorbed Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. I ran that for two years. Revenue went year over year roughly like this: $200 (08) $2000 (09) $2500 (10) $4000 (11) $23,000 (12) $32,000 (13). While I gradually increased the office budget, and I slept in my office, I never paid myself a check. I would survive an audit. But it was precarious. Fortunately, I could legally sleep in my office at The Point. It was a huge step up.

There is leadership potential in me, but I write here in this blog openly about my flaws. There is a pathology to it, a history that makes sense of my erratic patterns of mixed success. I have this dual edge, I can only pull off the persona rich people want from me for so long until I crack. I really can’t do it. Most people I meet are fully compartmentalized. I never could do that. So I never got funding to pay any staff beyond event-based contracting. By the way, I earned a RACC grant in 2013 to pay $10,000 to musicians at CPJazz.

That September, I did my annual deep dive into contemporary art and performance via PICA’s T:BA Festival. I had been contributing media since 2008. It was such a nice break from producing events, rather I got to be the commentary, the observer, the journalist. I was feeling a longing to take back my role as a creative person, not an administrator. And I wanted to expand on my long-lived role in media. I found myself emotionally resolved to dissolve InterArts.

Rather than keep the house, or slog through IRS filings to keep my non-profit, I just gave everything up. This sealed my reputation among a certain group that I was prone to overheat and burn out. It was true — but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when those same people do nothing to support you if not directly oppose you. I left town for several months, coming back to start a whole new project, turning away from St. Johns, as for me it was scorched earth.

So that is the rise and fall of the The Point. I’ll tell you what, it led to a whole new collection of adventures. After selling all my unneeded stuff, and working out a sudden exit with the landlord, as InterArts had ran its budget and I couldn’t afford the whole house, I embarked on a long form version of my annual holiday season travel through California to Tucson.

It looked like the best planning I had ever given to a trip, but I returned flat broke, without the car I left with, had been investigated by some kind of law enforcement, and a drum set that comedian Andrew Michaan eventually transported to me, for nothing, because I’m a bum. I crashed on the floor of my good friends’ art party house until I found a room for rent.

This next period of my life I regard as the THRU period, where I embarked on the ludicrous project of starting up a media company. Not that the idea was ludicrous, but my capacity to do it was not compatible to the idea. I was ahead of myself. Start from where you are. That is how The Point happened. It was successful. I let it go. Chaos ensued.

I see how this pattern works now. The universe arranges itself toward your intentions, but when you abruptly change those intentions, it pushes back. It has to fully reorient you within its system even though you are a disoriented person feeding it confused intentions. At least that is how I look at it.

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