The Grand View Project
The goal of The Grand View Project is to restore the Historic 1902 Grand View Hotel as an art and animation learning center, with production based instruction, open to all skill levels.
What do I mean by that? Simply; a learning facility that will teach through doing. Where people will be able to apply and expand their talent from whatever level they might be at. For new animators it will be a chance to get experience, as well a chance to get their first credits to help them develop their resumes. For more experience animators it may be an opportunity to take a lead role in a production, or getting the chance to have their own project produced, in addition to expanding their knowledge and resume. Those with greater experience will mentor those with less.
In the beginning I will start with the production of a pilot for Arkansas Pond Friends. A children’s animation that I’ve been working on for a while that has a strong story and characters. I feel that animation for children has been degrading and dumbing down over the last several years with flash over content. My goal with Pond Friends is to produce children’s programming that will educate as well as entertain and will allow parents to watch the show with their children, without wanting to fire a 16 penny, nail-gun, into their temple. As capacity expands we will work on additional animations both here on location, and collaborations, via the net.
Animations will not be restricted to children’s animations. I have other scripts that fit more into the mature Anime venue and I also want to produce work from students and online collaborators. I’ve just been working on this project for a while, it’s focused, has a universal appeal, and it’s a good place to start. I hope to make the Grand View a hub for animators from all over the world and be a place where people can come and meet face to face in a supportive, relaxing, environment. The Grand View is nestled in the Ozark Mountains, in a town that barely breaks 5,000. There’s only 26,000 in our whole county. It’s a great place to clear the mind and be creative.
I get a few questions on a regular bases. How does a guy from New Orleans, end up in a small town in Northwest Arkansas, restoring a building that was going to rot, had been boarded up for years, and was a home to pigeons, opossums, and raccoons. How did the Grand View Project get started? Why would I begin such a big project without the funds in place to see it through?
It has been my ambition, for a large part of my life, to establish a creative center where artists can come together learn and collaborate without the pressures of a bottom line mentality. I have been around a lot of these types of centers and they have tendency to fold in on themselves and mostly benefit the first on board. Also they were expensive for new artists trying to get a project done. Sure they might be cheaper than a regular commercial outlet, but you would still need to raise substantial funding to use their equipment and get their help. I’m trying to make a place that is externally funded and being a part of the center and working on productions is merit based. Where someone could earn their way in with effort and achieve their productions through shared work on other artists’ productions. Any revenue from those productions would go into supporting and expanding the facility and also back to the people that helped create them.
I made a stab at this in New Orleans, making commercials and a few music videos. But space and operating costs were very expensive there and it didn’t seem I’d ever really be able to reach the level I wanted to achieve. I began to consider other options. While in this process I was buying and flipping houses and living like a church mouse to save money. I got in an RV and drove around Arkansas looking for a place to set up and bought some acreage, with a cabin, south of Berryville, the town where the Grand View is located. For the next couple of years, I looked at this boarded up building, every time I came into town, and finally decided this was the place.
When I began the project I had the resources to see it through, I had substantial savings and multiple properties on the market, with most under contract. After I bought the Hotel the real estate market began to sink like an anvil dropped in the sea. My assets took a major hit and properties, that were under contract, failed to close and it took years to resell them and then for less money. I ended up getting killed by a lack of cash flow which raised my costs considerably, because I had to take out more loans at higher interest rates.
I opened a restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel and was starting to do good, when 2008 crash hit and took about a third of my business, as people cut back on going out. I was barely able to hang on through that and never recovered my lucidity. I came very close to losing everything, multiple times. A couple of times literally within hours of losing everything. An ice storm in 2009 almost put me out of business. Several times I almost had my utilities turned off which would have put me out of business. My home sold the same day the bank gave me a foreclosure notice and that saved the project as the sale paid off the lion share of the loan. That’s when I moved in behind the building, into the RV I’d traveled to Arkansas with.
I worked the restaurant to try and bounce back financially and got locked into it, cooking for and managing the restaurant. Then a combination of old work injuries, from my years of working on oil rigs as a commercial diver, years of carpentry, and other labor jobs I’d held over the years, suddenly made their effects known and I couldn’t walk any more. I went from being able to walk and climb scaffolding, to needing a cane, to needing to use two canes, or a walker, to take a single step, in the span of less than two years. I used the walker and canes to get around in the kitchen, using a baking sheet on top of the walker to carry things around. I couldn’t get the surgeries I needed without closing the restaurant. I really loved the restaurant and had poured my heart into it. I kept hoping we could reach the point where I’d be able to hire help, so I could take the time off, but that never happened and after 6 years I had to close the restaurant. I couldn’t bear the pain any longer and I couldn’t keep the doors open enough days to keep the restaurant viable. I had both my hips rebuilt and because I had been walking on canes for so long, I’d completely lost the ability to walk, and it took a lot of physical therapy to learn to walk again. While I was waiting for my surgery, and going though physical therapy, I began to work on my Lucky Cat designs and making plans for my store.
Now I’ve gotten to a stable place. I can walk. I’m working on the building and trying to raise money to do more. It is my hope that I can get the center up and running, build up a board of directors, and set it up so that when I’m gone, it will keep going. I’m not planning on going any time soon, but it’s my long-term goal. The hope, with LuckyCatGear.com, is that I can raise at least enough money so that I can work on the building full-time and not have to keep my brick and mortar store open, which demands a lot of time, for the return I get. The ultimate dream would be to raise enough to hire outside contractors, so that I could get this all done quickly which is what I was doing before the crash.
The building is within a national registered historical town square, but during it’s 117 year life it has undergone multiple changes, including additions. Unfortunately, due to this, the Grand View does not qualify for federal restoration grants. Because it is in a rural town with limited commercial prospects, additional bank funding is also not an option. The only way to get this important work done is to raise funds independently. This has given birth to LuckyCatGear.com. By patronizing LuckyCatGear.com you help save this historic building you make this important project a reality and make future artistic dreams possible.