Goodbye, Sweet Angel

For the second time in as many years, I am having to say goodbye to someone that I deeply admired, someone that mattered to so many others. Someone that unwillingly left us far too soon.

Where do you even begin to tell the story of someone that impacted so many. As we now watch big changes roll into downtown Mesa, it is a reminder that she was a part of an important moment in Mesa’s history, one that most would most likely rather not remember, but one that made the moment almost inevitable.

Amy Osowski was a fighter. All her life. In every way. Which is ironic in that she would be that last person anyone should want to fight. Kind, loving, brilliant, beautiful inside and out. She abhorred conflict, but she was not afraid to bring you to task if you deserved it.

She moved to Mesa from Tucson, she never really shared with me the details why, but it didn’t really matter because Mesa had just hit the home run of indie art curation in gaining her as a resident.

She was a huge part of that important moment for DT Mesa. Her, and Sam, Andrea, Bob & Debbie and Suzanne and others had cobbled together an identity for Downton, Mesa Weird. It was an identity that I think they all knew would not last forever, as they all had been refugees of other places, other promises. But what they created was open, and accepting, and encouraging.

In that moment, Amy was Queen. She would HATE that I say that, but it’s true. And she was Queen because she was willing to do the work. She made the directional signs that still stand over by BRI. She fought the battle that created the converted alley pocket park by Milanos. She championed the little library idea. She painted the rocks. She did the diplomatic work to try and bring a discordant downtown community together. She created the recycled plastic bottle flower displays, championed the pillar art, and on and on.

She believed that bringing Downtown Mesa back from the brink was not about big money- it was about community. And getting the community engaged in the work as a participant, and ultimately a steward. Because despite the fact that she had had to fight her entire life for every inch of ground, she still passionately believed in the good of people.

She was equally savvy in business. She was my first Brick Cave landlord, allowing me to use a room in her Main Street store. Lulubell was also the first official “retail” location for Brick Cave Books. She hosted the Brick Cave Universe Vlog in the store and even after we moved to LoFi Coffee, her curated art was still on set for each show we recorded.

Because she was the landlord, I got to talk to her about her thoughts on retail, about her approach to her own industry.

She would tell me about what the typical process for a toy launch would be, and that in itself was art. In a world of increasing mechanization, everything was touched by a person, customized by a person, packed and shipped by a person. I’d come in the back door of the shop to mountains of toys and toy parts patiently waiting for the next step in their journey. Then just like that, they were gone, delivered to their new owners. She was amazing at that. That was important to her, no matter how much work it was, that her clients know her business was human through and through.

She taught me that selling was not about selling to everyone, it was about finding your community. She approached her business the same way she approached her community work. She taught me that it was OK to say no to vending at an event that did not serve your needs. I cannot imagine that there was not a customer that did not know her by name, could not check in with her at any moment and get an immediate response. Her business was toys, but it was her life’s work and she took her business very seriously.

She taught me about art as a means to engage. She hated conflict, but she reveled in finding and presenting art not to rebel or offend, but to engage. If you saw something Amy curated you didn’t like, it was more of a statement about you, then it was about the art itself.

I remember how excited she was talking about that she could bike downtown from her home, and how she could have the family in tow doing it. I remember her telling me she needed to exercise more, get control of her health. I remember her teasing me with three vinyl Godzilla’s that had arrived from Japan that were “in the box, I don’t know how they got in there” *wink*

I remember when she told me she was going to consolidate her operations to the house. She was tired, and she was taking the advice that she had given me years before. I felt horrible, that we had failed her when all she wanted was a warm, welcoming and diverse Downtown Mesa.

I saw her about a month ago, in DT Mesa, it took me just a moment, and then I hugged her as I had not seen her since before the pandemic.  In that moment I realized how much I missed her. Her loss is a loss to the community, to her industry, and most importantly, to every single person she touched, inspired loved and encouraged.

Amys are one of a kind.

Goodbye, sweet Angel, and thank you.

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