It's been a moving and emotional week for us here at The Art House: the sudden passing of one of our very own volunteers, Nikki Mclean, a few weeks back, and the funeral this week, has brought us together as a community to remember a lovely person. It has brought us together to mourn, as all communities must sometimes, the loss of one of our own.
In among Nikki's things, her partner found a glitter-covered note she'd been making for some of her friends and for The Art House, thanking us for accepting her for her. It summed up what we are here for - a place where people can be their own, true, authentic selves. A rare thing.
The past weeks have, most of all, made us really appreciate what we have here and most of all the people involved, and remember how fragile it all is, too.
I wanted to share with you, our friends, some of our thoughts going into the Autumn.
Yes, I know all this talk of death, change and challenge isn't what you're supposed to write in a newsletter to your 'customers' - but I think by now you know you're more than a customer, and we don't do things the usual way here.
The Art House has been running for nearly six years now, and the support we've had as been inspiring and moving. Right through a recession, we've established and grown, moved premises and hosted thousands of events, workshops and groups attended by so many of you.
Our world needs community so badly right now. What we are, under all the fun stuff and cake, is exactly that - a community.
Last night I felt urged to post this on my own Facebook wall:
Support the things you love in your town, village, city or area. This is my challenge to you all.
Love is a verb - get out there and love your local places!
Buy local, get out of the house, commit yourself, give of your time, enjoy the feast that's on your doorstep.
Make yourself a promise right now to engage with what's going on in your area - book a ticket, plan a visit, tell a friend about something awesome. Stop putting off that visit to somewhere you love - enjoy it while it's there for you to enjoy.
Community is YOU. You can and do make a difference. Go make it.
YOU are our community, and through the quiet summer months so many of you donated to help us when money was short and kept coming in even on the sunny days. That money meant we were able to keep paying all those bills when our footfall was lower. Yay!
In late 2007, we took over a failing art gallery to see if we could keep it going a little longer. It worked. We moved to a bigger place, taking a chance on a longer term lease, to see if we could establish as somewhere that would last a few more years. It worked.
Over this Autumn, Winter and Spring we have a challenge to get this lovely place to the next level: a sustainable, long-term project which can be here to make Southampton a better place to be for many, many years to come. It feels like the chips are down, for us, at this moment. We need to make this whole thing click together and become something truly lasting. There are big plans, little plans and many, many fond hopes tied up in The Art House right now.
We are asking all of you to be a part of this challenge.
Here are just some of the ways you can join with us to take this into the future:
Come in regularly! We're here for you - so that you have a place to be accepted for who you are, can meet likeminded people, can be fed, inspired and entertained. The more often you visit us, the more what we do will enhance and transform your life. That isn't a grandiose statement - this little place has changed lives, people blossom here, that's what we set up for in the first place.
Volunteer! We are looking for cafe, kitchen, publicity and admin crew right now. If you want to:-
*Help in the cafe, meeting lots of lovely people (our crew and customers are the best), gaining customer service & food serving experience, supporting us in a very real way.
* Work in the kitchen - under the supportive eye of Abi or Ziggy you will learn more about healthy, tasty food preparation than you can shake a stick at, having lots of fun in the process!
*Support us by distributing leaflets. We are looking for reliable people all over Hampshire who are happy to take our 'What's on' guides and leaflets to local places and spread the word.
* Work with our admin staff on the many day-to-day office tasks that need doing.
* Lend your expertise in publicity, systems, accounts, building maintenance....... get in touch if you have a skill to share, long or short term!
* We even have roles you can do from home, if you are unable to get in.
Donate! Either a regular or a one-off sum, every amount makes a huge difference. At the moment we are still getting back on track from a very quiet summer, so all donations are being welcomed with a big smile! You can also donate clothing to our Trash Cocktail Boutique - we are looking especially for sparkly evening wear at the moment for the festive season.
Invite people to our events on Facebook! Even if you can't make it, hit the 'invite' button a few times and spread the word.
Tell people about us - in realbook, on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. Your recommendation is better than any advertising we can do. Become an ambassador for what you love by telling all your friends about us!
Click this link to Tweet about us right now in one easy step!
Share This Link on Facebook now to tell your friends about us.
There are so many ways you can be a big support for what we do - part of a powerful ecosystem of people working together to make our city - and our world - a better place.
The Art House is a little place with some very big ideas. We invite you to be a part of it!
Come in soon, dear << Test First Name >>, we would love to see you, we are open today until 10pm, as we are every Wednesday - Saturday. 12 - 5pm Sundays and Tuesdays. Here is where to find us.
Jani, Bik, Nina, Zigz, Abi, Natalie & all of The Art House crew