First In and Out

Which game show is it where you have to identify mashups of familiar phrases? Like Easier said than done is good. Easier said than done. Done is good. Now that I’ve insulted your intelligence by breaking down my post title I can go back to insulting myself…my real forte.

So I was going to try to write around the particulars so as not to upset my friends at Burlington City Arts, but I am pretty sure I am the only jackass in this story. I tell it to try to learn something.

4th floor gallery
4th floor gallery

For almost a decade Doreen Kraft and I have had lunch once a quarter or so to shoot the shit (my phrase) review the local arts scene and very occasionally tap into me as a supporter of BCA. She knows (because I tell her) that I prefer to support the arts by buying art, that my gifts to NPOs are smaller than they once were because I am focusing on social ventures, and that I don’t actually have that much money. Nonetheless we generally enjoy lunch, she often has an incredible partnership story to share and I can make her laugh.

A few times we get into it a little more deeply and we talk about pieces of their mission that I feel could be boosted by programs or events. Like most small scale donors I talk about my particular areas of interest, and like most skilled fundraisers she indulges me in highlighting the importance of my ideas. One of the things I wish for in our community is to cultivate the next generation of art colletors. If they become supporters of the visual arts scene in general that is a positive byproduct. But what I really want is for Shelburbian moms to take their pottery barn budget and use 2/3 of it on original artwork. Selected correctly this will enhance their homes and lives in a way no mass produced ceramic cornucopia can. AND the artist might well be able to support him/herself by, you know, making art. Something that, despite the “my 1st grader could have made that” attitude, most of us never even dream of doing.

Your first grader is a: a child who has yet to lose his imagination, b: someone who through the school system and various enriching activites actually devotes time each week to looking at, talking about, and making art, and c: actually has an art teacher. Put your kids at home without materials, prompts and instructions and you are probably back to stick figures, but I digress. (Don’t cut art, it allows them to see the world differently, shape imaginary outcomes, and let off frustration in a completely beneficial way.)

BCA has plenty of great educational programs, but my interest is in making Burlington a city where it is viable to live as an artist. The ways that an art infused city enhance our daily lives exist below your general radar I would expect, but they are everywhere. Not just public art, but temporary expression, what the bathroom looks like at Lucky Next Door, signage, painted junction boxes, and tumbled marble from an international sculptor gathering decades ago hidden in the overgrowth of your walking path.

So 2 years ago we talked about a CSA, community supported art share, where members could pay a super affordable price, attend opening events and select art off the wall for their homes. The logistics were tricky, would BCA commission the work, or go into backstock. Would they be limited edition? Would the selection be first come first served? How broad did it need to be to appeal to most of the share members tastes? Could taste shaping be baked into the events? I was part of these early discussions.

Then I stopped taking phone calls. This might sound familiar to those of you who have tried to reach me. There are about 12 people I will speak to on the phone in this world and I’m pretty sure none of them are work- like. Well, I talk to my accountant right now because of the audit, and my money manager’s manager because of ML bizarre (bizarre only to me obviously, almost everyone else agrees that sending account numbers, passwords and wire details through email is dumb) security laws, but even with those two I think my phone people fit in the bakers dozen.

So Doreen has been calling me for a year, while I put off lunch due to a mix of depression and other activities. A few months ago she took to emailing me, so I actually answered. She would ask to break bread to talk about the gallery and catch up and I would reply with gibberish about properties and activities. Basically I was an asshole. But I figured that wouldn’t really effect me. If people want money or ideas or both from me they can work with my quirks and schedule.

So yesterday I get a long lovely email with a bunch of attachments crediting my idea, telling me they have moved forward, inviting me to the opening, crediting me with connecting her with some of the money that they have received, and asking me to be a founding member. Pretty good formula. Appreciation, credit, more credit, optimism, invitation. And me? Panties = bunched.

In reply to Doreen’s last ditch email (last ditch because she has been trying to see and or talk to me for a very long time) I bang out a two sentences…I’m not giving you money I’ll try to make the opening. (Steve and I have a standing Thursday sitter, so this is super do-able, but first I seem to need to act out a bit.) Then I text my friend Kerri who is standing working her butt off in the gallery instead of putting her kids to bed. I tell her I think BCA has mishandled me.

Then after I do both of those things I stop and think. Actually I am not yet thinking. I am still feeling the full on bunch of the panties.

Steve and I stand at the sink washing up after dinner. He does the washing I rant next to him, slamming down pots almost close enough for him to reach. “So I gave them this idea, and then I get invited to the opening the day before.” The suds from the dishes smell good. I lean in a little closer. Steve continues his rinsing. “So you never returned her call?” “No!” I answer in outrage, “it was a CALL!” “mmm hmmm.” “I think that if someone wants something from me, ideas, money, connections, the least they can do is NOT CALL ME.” “But then she emailed” Steve reviewed. “Yes, she emailed, but she didn’t tell me why she was emailing, she said she wanted to have lunch and talk about some things, I didn’t know it was the idea I cared about.” “OK, fine, but do you always have to be so rigid about phone calls?” Standing there I am thinking that I obviously have to be MORE rigid about phone calls if people are still calling me. I have rerecorded my home message leaving the cell number, but I am pretty sure I need to somehow disconnect the cell message telling people text or nothing. I am lost in this train for a minute, so thrilled that iOS 7 agrees with me and allows me to answer and incoming call with a text reply. Those are the best. I mean, like, 8 years late, but still. Steve has not lost his train of thought. ‘Do you really think, you can be angry when someone made every reasonable effort to contact you, and, you just didn’t answer, I’m not trying to challenge you…” I mean he was OBVIOUSLY trying to challenge me, and although I feel myself digging in to the whole phone thing it is at the same time that I am letting go of the gallery opening. Scraps of conversation are coming back to me, Kerri telling me about her progress. Sarah mentioning it at her studio. I have blocked them out. They didn’t integrate into whatever I was focused at the time. I realize that what I am really upset about is that my checking in and out of things whenever I want has left me out of the loop on this one. I’m not sure I would have given the money, or if I would have even had any ideas to make the event better (fuck that I’m SURE I would have had the best possible ideas in my opinion.)


So this is a long, public apology to Doreen and Kerri, who while trying to manage 1,000 projects also had to deal with a grumpy friend/donor with particular odd communication rules that also happen to be a moving target.

It is also something about IP and founding, and first in stuff. As much as I work on letting go of attachments (or I used to, and imagine I will again someday (see how unattached I am to that practice? go me)) I still have a tether of connection to my ideas and how they are executed. This is dangerous. I need to give them freely or not at all. If I want to manage the way an idea comes to life I should not share it. Thats on me. This idea was always best for BCA, even if the details are not as I would have chosen them (and I don’t even know maybe every detail is how I would have done it.))

These questions have been in my mind lately as contracts come across my desk that limit future consulting work because of a current gig, (non competes) and I write checks to help fund start ups and then try to direct my money towards the exact instrument that I want explored. I seem to want it both ways. No limits on me, but with overreaching oversight. I want this imbalance to be negotiated without contract or paperwork. I want to be first in, first out, and with the outcome I imagine but don’t help execute. Seems like my recipe is a bit off. It might need some tweaking.I’m pretty sure non competes in Burlington Vermont are utter bullshit though, just saying.

If anyone is free tonight in the BTV area come join me celebrating the 4th floor gallery at City Arts…I’ll be the one with the egg on my face.

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Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

One thought on “First In and Out”

  1. Anna – I talk a lot about the “You Should” people. You know them, the ones who show up to fundraising meetings and say lots of helpful things always starting with “You Should …”

    I have been at said fundraising meetings with you. You are not a “You should” you are an “I will” It takes some doing to be an “I will” – so if with that comes a sense of ownership – so much better.

    You had a great idea – you turned into a “you should” for a time because they couldn’t reach you for whatever reason. Cut yourself a break and go back to being an “I will” – when you can.

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