“We love Hugo House!” the two woman told me in unison. I was at a book publication party and had been introduced to them as the director of Hugo House.
“That’s great!” I replied. “Do you take classes there?”
“No, we haven’t taken classes there for many years.”
“So, do you come to events?” I asked.
“No, no, we’re too busy. We have kids. We never make it to events.”
I paused. “Well, why then do you love Hugo House?”
They looked at each other. “Because our writing group, which has gotten together monthly for years, met in a class at Hugo House.”
That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the magic of a place like Hugo House. Here, you find your people, those with whom you’re going to discuss writing and writers and words. Those conversations may not necessarily happen at Hugo House, but Hugo House is where you unearth that commonality.
First a four-plex apartment building, then a funeral home, then a theater, and then finally Hugo House, our space across from Cal Anderson Park was beautifully inconvenient. Who, for instance, can forget the dramatic flood that happened two days before Hugo House was scheduled to move out in May 2016? That old house was dilapidated, and the flood seemed a prophetic signal that it was time to say goodbye: the house wept for itself.
Something writers have all heard: “Nothing happens nowhere.” As cliched as that old expression may be, it’s true. If you can’t place something, you can’t really imagine it happening. It’s just how humans think; we think in space.
Our new space — the one we’re so fiercely working toward — will be ours completely. Working alongside the architecture firm NBBJ, we’re creating a setting for the story we want to be.
That story needs imagination, and imagination craves the unexpected. It has nowhere to burrow in a square, white, boring room. It has nothing to get a purchase on. Just as with oysters — their little eggs need something to latch onto to start growing. We haven’t built a single shelf yet but already our new home has hatched so many new ideas (check back here for those details later).
It’s a challenge to build your own home but Hugo House is up for the challenge. Yes, we are so focused on the goal of getting settled in the new building but that’s just the beginning. That’s when we’ll finally have the space to imagine, to burrow, to dream. We’ll be able to open up our imaginations to all that we can become — because nothing never happens at Hugo House.
—Tree Swenson, Executive Director