The Emancipation of Shea Coulee’ (Part 1 of 3)
By: Jaren Kyei Merrell
As Pride approaches, so does the one year anniversary of the birth of Shea Coulee’. About one year go this time, I was not in the same place that I am now.
I had recently gone through a break up with my best friend of six years. I also was laid off of my job as a Stitcher in my school’s costume shop. I maxed out two credit cards so that I could pay off the rent for the rest of my lease, and was currently without another apartment to live in at the end of May.
As my college graduation approached, which in and of itself was a challenge to achieve. I was now looking at what being a freelance artist really was.
I attended Columbia College Chicago to earn a Bachelor in Theatre Costume Design. But unhappy with the standards and mistreatment of many young freelance designers in the industry – I was frustrated because I was now staring at what seemed like a life of thankless gigs, endless hours, little budget, and little pay.
Then, one Day I got an email from Robert Schramm, the owner of Broadway Costumes Chicago, one of the largest and last standing custom theatrical costume shops in the Country. I had sent in my resume a few months prior as a class assignment. He asked me if I would be interested in coming in to interview for a Stylist position.
Things were starting to look up. I nailed the interview, and two weeks before graduation I found out I had the job. Still with no place to Live, my friend Sam offered to let me crash on her couch. Amidst Costume Designing and working an intense ten day shoot on The Wild Blue Yonder’s “Gigantomachia” I had to pack up my life and move all my belongings into a storage unit. As I sealed up the past four years of my life in that little box, I was nervous.
My whole life I always had a plan. Though I had this great new job, I also was technically homeless. It was the first time that I ever had to give into the unknown, and little did I know that from that moment on my life was going to change forever.