The 22nd & Olive Story

Posted by Bruce Weiss on

Welcome to 22nd & Olive, I appreciate you stopping by.  These are the cross streets nearest the home where I grew up and they are the foundation of who and what I am today.  They live vividly in my mind as the place where anything is possible, where community is built, and where those who can help, do. 


While there were, and still are, many influences in my life, none were more influential than my Mom.  Mom was a teacher and spent the better part of 40 years bestowing her knowledge upon the Rushmore States’ youth in various towns across South Dakota.  While she was a teacher by trade, she was a volunteer by either biology or compulsion…or both.  Giving back to her community is my Mom’s defining characteristic.  Dozens of organizations benefitted from her efforts and she worked tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone in the community, especially those who are less fortunate.  Her reward was the joy she infused in people lives and the smiles she brought to their faces.  We didn’t have a lot growing up but we had all we needed and a little bit more.  And that little bit more was why Mom believed we could give back. 


Mom saw my love of art at a young age and she not only encouraged, but enabled my art.  She purchased drawing paper and pencils and crayons and paints.  She would drive me to art classes on Saturday morning in downtown Sioux Falls and she would always ask me to draw her a picture for her birthday.  Mom would frequently say that I should make a career in Art.  I didn’t know how to make art a career and I didn’t know anyone who had so I just set her advice aside.  As I got older, growing up things further clouded the link between me and art.  Be it sports or girls or simply trying to fit in and be cool, art was pushed to the background.  Eventually, it disappeared altogether.  It was on to college and graduate school and corporate jobs, because that’s where the money is made. 


I entered a career in Human Resources over 20 years ago.  Multiple jobs at multiple levels across multiple companies did bring me a level of financial stability.  However, it rarely brought me joy or happiness or satisfaction.  I worked for three fantastic companies and worked with some really and truly outstanding people.  However, that career just didn’t represent who I was and what I wanted to be…and it showed.  The last two companies felt they would be better off with me on the outside rather than the inside.  The most recent time coincided with the early onset of the COVID pandemic.  I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to do it.


Shortly after I left my most recent company, my Mom’s already poor health began to decline at a rapid pace.  Mom had health challenges for decades, but the last couple of her years were extremely difficult.  She’d completely lost her motor skills and needed help with all aspects of her life.  Mom had the ability to smile with her eyes, which was the last of her skills to depart.  On April 13, 2020 at 3:40pm Central, my Mom breathed her last and took her rightful place amongst the angels.  Everything was in turmoil due to a global pandemic lockdown that had no end in sight.  I had no job, no prospects, and I had just lost my hero and my champion.  Something needed to change and change drastically.  And it did…without me even realizing it at the time. 


On April 19, 2020, ESPN began airing a 10-part documentary titled The Last Dance.  The documentary chronicled the final season (1997-98) of the Chicago Bulls NBA dynasty.  The 97-98 season ended with the Bulls sixth championship in eight years.  It was the final season with the Bulls for Michael Jordan and head coach Phil Jackson and essentially ended, in my mind, the “old-school” NBA that I loved.


As I watched each episode, memories that had long-since been tucked away suddenly came to the forefront of my mind.  The music, the clothes, the rivalries…the things I loved about that time period were right there before my eyes.  I was a teenager again…a time when my love of creating art had almost completely disappeared.  I found an old sketch pad and stole a couple of #2 pencils from my son’s school backpack and decided to take a run at drawing a picture of Michael Jordan.  The joy and sense of accomplishment from that very mediocre drawing was something I had not experienced at any time in my professional career.  There was a spark inside of me that I’m not sure I’ve felt at any point in time in my life.  Ali followed MJ and Rocky followed Ali in my notebook.  I had found something that calmed my mind, cured my boredom and gave me a sense of accomplishment.  I was happy when I drew pictures, so I drew in my little basement studio until my hand ached.  Just like I did back in the day.


Thanks to the inspiration that came from The Last Dance and the boredom created by the global pandemic, I was transported back to that little Hilltop house and I was a kid again.  Full of hopes and dreams, living in my imagination.  For months I would kill hours each day kicking the rust off my drawing skills with no specific purpose in mind.  I shared the drawings with a small number of people and those people encouraged me to share with more and more people.  I eventually posted a handful of drawings on my social media accounts.  Several comments followed, as did a handful of commission requests.  I would share each new drawing I created and, now and again, a new commission request would appear. 


I realized that I had a second chance at taking Mom’s advice…and so I did.  I have become the artist my Mom always wanted and I will attempt to honor her legacy by building the business in her image.  The mission of my art business is to create things that inspire joy and laughter.  As I begin this journey, I will donate 50% of net profits to various charities and non-profit organizations.  My hope is that I am successful enough over time to work my way up to donating 100% - Mom would really like that.


So, the “second-chance-at-my-dream” journey begins with this simple website.  And, while I do not know where this journey will ultimately take me, I do know that as long as I am creating things for the benefit of others, I will never be more than a stones-throw from 22nd and Olive.  I hope you will continue to stop by for a visit.