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An art gallery's incredible story

Aaron Kloss inside the Lakeside Gallery. (Photo by Eddy Gilmore)

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 plus $7,200 in startup costs, plus burnout and restlessness, plus a debilitating medical diagnosis, plus a whole lot of elbow grease, equal one art gallery.

"I wouldn't recommend people buy a house, sell a house, move and start a business, all within a month," said Aaron Kloss, owner of Lakeside Gallery, 4431 E. Superior St.

He not only accomplished all this, entering my neighborhood as both a neighbor and business owner, but he did it with his three kids (ages 14, 11 and 10) in tow on a daily basis. One of the driving forces behind launching this venture, in fact, was a desire to involve his kids.

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 seeking 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 Budgeteer 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. Ten attacks over the next two years caused him to nearly lose the ability to walk. He was physically incapable of holding a job.

While working through this challenge, he pursued graphic design as a freelancer and, as his health improved, remodeled and sold nine houses with the help of a family member.

Incredibly, he hasn't had an attack in 10 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. By the end of that first year, however, he uncovered his trademark style. Then in 2012, he made the commitment to be a fulltime artist. To go from beginner to making a living as an artist in the span of one year seems impossible.

He has since achieved significant local and regional renown for his artwork and is featured in 10 galleries. Kloss continues to supply works to them.

His own gallery actually features very little of his work. Conveniently, Amity Coffee occupies the adjacent space and is filled with his paintings.

Lakeside Gallery displays the work of dozens of artists across a variety of mediums. From outside the space appears small and diminutive, but step inside and the square footage is truly impressive. Artists such as 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.)

Aaron is committed to advancing the careers of area artists, not only himself. The unique atmosphere and neighborhood feel of Lakeside Gallery is something to experience.

Eddy Gilmore

Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. Connect with Eddy at eddygilmore.com.

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