I continue to be amazed by the sheer quantity of great stories that are all around us. It seems that everybody has an incredible story to tell. You just need to ask the right questions. Unable to conceal a mid-life crisis, my queries tend to revolve around vocation and identity. This story originally appeared right here, and is hugely inspirational. It demonstrates, among other things, how major obstacles can actually be beneficial over the long term. As long as we don’t quit, these handicaps force us to think outside-the-box. This brings to mind my conversation with Gaelynn Lea. Her comments that people with disabilities are twice as likely to start their own businesses seem particularly relevant. These stories give me hope that maybe, just maybe, the problems I continue to face just might contain the very solutions I seek.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what it takes to open your own retail space. Here is the formula that worked for one of my neighbors: intense physical pain + $7,200 in startup costs + burnout and restlessness + a debilitating medical diagnosis + a whole lot of elbow grease = one art gallery.
The story behind Lakeside Gallery, located at 4431 East Superior Street, is surprisingly fascinating. Aaron Kloss, the business owner, says, “I wouldn’t recommend people buy a house, sell a house, move, and start a business, all within a month.” He not only accomplished all this in entering my neighborhood as both a neighbor and business owner, but he did it with his three kids (14, 11, and 10 years old) in tow on a daily basis! One of the driving forces behind launching this venture, in fact, was a desire to involve his kids. His daughter, Autumn, in an effort to pay off library fines, occasionally sets up a highly profitable lemonade stand out front. On one particularly slow sales day for Aaron, Autumn made bested him by selling $60 in liquid refreshment to passersby.
Circumstances, be it family, career burnout, or a crippling disease, have long forced him to think outside-the-box. His experiences have the potential to provide inspiration to anyone wanting to reinvent themselves. Aaron’s simple advice to anyone seeking a career change is, “Change is good. If you don’t like what you’re doing, do something else…Find creative ways to overcome obstacles to follow what you’re passionate about.”
Kloss’s very first job out of college, in 1999, just happened to be with the Duluth Budgeteer (The paper I write for!) as a graphic designer. Some of his tasks included updating the Piggly Wiggly ad and classifieds each week. Five years of this led to serious boredom and restlessness.
In 2004, Aaron was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 10 attacks over the next two years caused him to nearly lose the ability to walk. Physically, he wasn’t capable of holding down a job.
While working through this challenge, he pursued graphic design as a freelancer, and even flipped nine houses with the help of a family member.
Incredibly, he hasn’t had an attack in ten years. He has gone from nearly needing a wheelchair to now having zero disability, an apparent healing that he attributes to God.
Aaron values the lessons he learned while enduring the disease, saying, “Going through something like that has made me willing to do things that maybe other people wouldn’t. When you live through a traumatic experience, it does change you.”
Eventually he found himself looking at paintings in art galleries saying to himself, “I wish I could do that. I want to be an artist.” He goes on to say, “Finally I just decided, ‘I’m gonna do it.’ And I did it.”
That was in 2011. The first posts in his blog are from that year, and they show the work of a beginning painter. They aren’t particularly good, to be honest. Here is a splendid example of, well…., early unremarkable work. Keep in mind that when he first painted it, Kloss felt good enough about it to post it on his blog. I suppose he was figuring out perspective, light, etc.
By the end of that first year, however, you can see that he uncovered his trademark style. Then, in 2012, he made the commitment to being a full-time artist. To go from beginner to making a living as an artist in the span of one year seems impossible. This should give hope to all of us, regardless of our chosen vocation, that practice and perseverance pays off.
He has since achieved significant local and regional renown for his artwork, and has 220 original works featured in 10 galleries. Kloss continues to supply pieces to them, often painting behind the counter of his own gallery during slow times, but was becoming burned out by all the sitting and tediousness of his work. Thus, Lakeside Gallery came into fruition.
His own gallery actually features very little of his work. Conveniently, Amity Coffee occupies the space adjacent to him, and is filled with his paintings! Lakeside Gallery displays the work of dozens of artists across a variety of mediums. From the outside, the space appears small and diminutive, but step inside and the square footage is truly impressive. Artists like Adam Swanson, Ryan Tischer, Betsy Bowen, John Peyton, and Shawna Gilmore, grace the walls.
Yes, that Shawna Gilmore. As in, my wife. A large body of her work, a sort of cabinet of curiosities, comprises the gallery’s main summer exhibition, “A Curious World,” for the summer season.
Here I am—dressed as a guy in mid-life crisis, who, though he boasts a master’s degree, must sometimes appear out in public in grungy painter clothes or begrimed in soil from head to toe—beside the artist. This is no costume party. I share this, because I felt completely at ease in the gallery looking like a working schmuck. If this place lacks one thing, it is an inflated sense of self-importance.
Aaron is committed to advancing the careers of area artists, and not only himself. It’s really quite refreshing. The unique atmosphere and neighborhood feel of Lakeside Gallery is something you should experience for yourself.
Take in the art, enjoy the finest cup of coffee in town next door, and mail a letter. These are three of my favorite places, and with Marshall Hardware immediately adjacent, you have just about everything you need WITHOUT driving to the Mall area, which my hippie friend, Dan Proctor, refers to as Mordor.