From California to Florida via Arizona
My circuitous route to St Petersburg started off in Topanga Canyon, CA in 2015. I got the news that I was accepted to an artist-in-residence program I had applied for at Arthub in Kingman, Arizona. The residency would start in June and last for three months. I was enthused about having the chance to create in a new environment.
At the beginning of June I packed up my truck and drove to Kingman, AZ, six-hours east of Los Angeles and 90 miles south of Las Vegas on the edge of the Mojave Desert. All my worldly possessions remained safely ensconced in my studio back in California.
I began the residency with fresh enthusiasm. Setting up the studio and becoming accustomed to living in what was basically an upscale college dorm. Three other artists soon joined me along with Seth, the Director of the program. It was an ideal setup. Very casual, no pressure, and the town was tiny and laid-back. The months passed quickly.
In August, near the end of the three month artist-in-residence term, they asked me to stay for another cycle. This was fortuitous as I was still undecided about where to go at the end of the residency, I wasn’t ready to go back to Los Angeles. So I gladly accepted the extra time to sort out what to do next.
A month later, in September, I got a call from my landlord back in LA. The building where my studio was located had been sold. All the tenants were being evicted and I had to move all my things out by the end of the month.
So there I was in Kingman with a mandate to clear everything out of my studio in CA, 500 miles away. Everything I owned was in that studio. I decided to find a 20’ x 20 storage unit in Kingman, rent the biggest Penske truck, load it up and drive it all out to Kingman. I was under the gun and got it done in a few days. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have no choice, no matter how daunting the task. My last connection to California was severed.
All my worldly goods were now safely re-ensconced within a 20 x 20 ft. storage space in Kingman. Click went the locks on the storage unit in Kingman and the onerous task of moving my studio from CA to AZ was done, for the time being. The stuff couldn’t stay in there indefinitely however.
The question was, was I going to become a full time resident of Kingman? I gave it serious consideration but just couldn’t imagine living there on a permanent basis. Too down and out, unsophisticated and bleak. I had to find somewhere else to call home. The truth is, I had no idea where to go.
Then I received the news that my brother-in-law, Robert Giordano, my sister Linda’s beloved husband, was gravely ill with myeloma – cancer of the white blood cells. He battled it for over a year and passed away on September 22, 2015. I went to be with my sister during this difficult time.
My situation seemed to be heavily influenced by the hand of fate.
I notified the residency in Kingman that I would be leaving in October and I took all my art and tools out of the ArtHub studio and packed up my personal belongings.
I decided to ship my car and fly to St. Pete instead of driving the 2,400 miles. I drove to Vegas, dropped off my car to be transported, and then ubered to the airport. I left my Ram truck at my friend Jan’s house back in Kingman, as well as all my stuff in the storage unit. I packed only the essentials in the trunk of my car, which took 5 days to be transported by car-carrier to Florida.
After a few months of living in St Pete I decided to relocate on a more permanent basis. The daunting task of moving the contents of my studio stuff in storage from AZ to FL stood before me. But first I had to find a studio space. The only creative outlet I had without my equipment was creating a series of fish themed paintings in the garage.
I had been looking half-heartedly for studio space, sort of waiting for the right opportunity to fall in my lap. It never did. I had looked at many spaces and found nothing with the right combination of karma, privacy, space, location and price. Until I happened upon a 2,100 sq/ft. space in Pinellas Park about 4 miles from home. It was twice the size of my California studio. I was getting desperate and I made up my mind to lease this place and make a go of it. The landlord agreed to do the extensive electrical upgrades for my welder, plasma cutter and compressor, as well as add new banks of fluorescent lights to evenly illuminate the space. I did a thorough cleaning and painted the walls. It felt good to be sprucing up the space to accommodate my new studio.
After signing the lease, I made plans to fly out to Kingman and load the contents of my storage bin into a semi-trailer which would be delivered to the storage bin site and then re-hitched to a cab and driven out to Florida in six days. I also made arrangements to have my truck shipped out from Vegas where I would drop it off and get on a plane back to Tampa.
It was like a military operation as I had to coordinate all the trucking and flying details as well as manpower, a place to stay in AZ, a ride from the airport in Vegas and wrap up all my business in Kingman. The planning paid off and everything went off well with only minor hitches, which is to be expected.
It was good to see my Kingman peeps but also good to finally cut ties with that strange little town in the high desert. My home was now St Petersburg, Florida.