How To Design Your Dream Life From the Inside Out

It was a dream come true that involved a former bank building, two artists who are madly in love, a small historic New York town, a $50,000 grant, and an astonishing collection of shoes.

Last Friday night, The Foundry for Art Design + Culture opened in Cohoes, New York. The dream was more than 5 years in the making. The two artists who made it come true, Jesse Matulis and Alana Sparrow, are a happily married couple who had a joint vision to someday create a space and center like this.

Seeing this dream come true reminded me of what it takes to bring our visions to life. In summary: vision, persistence, passion, lots of hard work, and maybe a dose of magic.

An Enduring Vision

I first met Jesse and Alana years ago, before they ever became a couple. When I first moved to Troy, New York in 1997 I worked for The Arts Center of the Capital Region, and Jesse was a College of St. Rose student who used to win all of our “street-painting” competitions, which involved drawing on the sidewalk in chalk. He was an incredible artist and a sweetheart.

Fast forward a few years. I met Alana through the Troy arts and downtown community through gallery events that she was hosting in various empty storefront spaces and buildings in Troy. She was a fountain of energy, pixie-ishly beautiful, almost like a creature from another magical world. And did she ever know how to throw a party! People also turned out in droves for her arts events.

Alana held a vision of having her own arts space. At some point, she and Jesse met and joined forces. Somehow it wasn’t surprising that these two fell in love. Both are high energy, ferociously creative, fiercely talented, and passionate about art and creating community.

In 2005, the couple purchased the former Mechanic Savings Bank building, originally built in 1931, on Remsen Street in Cohoes, New York, a small Hudson River community just minutes from Albany, New York. Like many historic bank buildings from that era, it is grand, with vaulted ceilings and large arched windows.

The fact that the building needed tons of work might have been too daunting for many people to take on. For those with clarity of purpose, vision and passion like Alana and Jesse, it was just a matter of time.

Accelerating the Process

These two had vision, and determination. They were committed and had the talent and strong work ethic needed to pull off a project of this magnitude. They still needed some funding to move forward with their dream, however.

They applied for and received a Pepsi Refresh Grant in 2010, providing another $50,00o in cash for renovations, administration and revamping their Website. Alana said this moved the pace of the project along by about three years, enabling them to get more of it in motion much faster.

Now, the 6,875 square foot building is completely renovated with eco-friendly materials and an elegant design, fitting of a New York City style loft or gallery space. 3,800 square feet is commercial space available for events, and the remainder is two loft-style live/work apartments which are reserved for resident artists.

Alana and Jesse live in the upstairs apartment currently, which features a spa-worthy bathroom and a walk-in closet that has plenty of room to accommodate an amazing collection of shoes. Lovely, stylish Alana has one of the most impressive high heel collections I have ever seen, with lots of vintage shoes and many that are gasp-worthy.

Vision and Missionliving dreams with artists at Foundry

According to the Website for the Foundry, this is the organization’s mission and vision:

Mission: The Foundry’s mission is to identify and create economic opportunity for individuals working in the arts and creative sectors.

Vision: The Foundry is dedicated to connecting the arts and creative sectors to the business, civic, education and non-profit community of New York State’s Capital Region.

The Foundry strives to teach businesses, artists, institutions, and community developers how to use arts and culture in enriching and strengthening the physical, economic, and social revitalization of our region.

Gorgeous, right?

I find the vision statement especially compelling, and for me at least it helps me understand how Jesse and Alana pulled off what they did, working long and hard on preparing this space, often doing much of the hardest work themselves, of peeling old paint, scraping, renovating, reconstructing, building.

Moving towards a compelling vision for something bigger than us gives us strength. And this had been their dream for so long. I was not in the least surprised, and was thrilled for them, when they launched the space last Friday night with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, live music and then plenty of DJed dancing. The public could tour all of the building, including the live-work spaces.

Who We Need to Be to Live Our Dreams

Having known Alana and Jesse for as long as I have, I know they are special people. I have always sensed in them such energy, passion and purpose. You can feel that when you meet people sometimes. And clearly, they are talented.

Yet I believe any of us can live even the most big and outlandish dreams when we believe its possible, and do the work.

I think it really starts with the vision and the belief: the vision for what is possible, and the belief that we can do it. For many people, this last piece can be challenging.

I have always loved this Marianne Williamson quote:

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

So often, I have seen wonderful and talented people who are afraid to go after what they want. Life contains some disappointments and setbacks for all of us, and for some people what is possible can become eclipsed by the fear of not being able to create what we want or not knowing how to get from here to there.

This is a big part of the reason that I do life coaching, and love writing for this blog, because I know, from having lived so many of my own dreams, what is possible, and I know as well that living our dreams begins with the belief that we can.

Alana and Jesse always seemed to embody that confidence that of course they would make this dream happen. Anyone can find that sense of confidence within, I believe. It may come more naturally for some than others, but we all can cultivate it.

Start From Within

Here are some ways to cultivate that inner dream confidence:

  1. Look for examples of others who have lived dreams that inspire you, and read their stories.
    Sometimes it’s comforting simply to be reminded that everyone who has lived a dream has had to overcome some challenges along the way.
  2. Remind yourself of all the successes in your life thus far, and what you’ve had to do to achieve what you have achieved.
    So often when we’re in a space of doubt or fear, we discount or forget all that we’ve already accomplished in our lives. We are all more powerful than we tend to give ourselves credit for.
  3. Take small action steps towards any dream, and celebrate the progress and small victories along the way.
    Life is all about the moments, after all, and the journey, so part of what’s fun about living our dreams is simply, well, living it! Which means taking action on things that we are passionate about, no matter where the journey takes us next.
  4. Remind yourself that the seed of a dream was planted in you because it matches your unique talents and gifts.
    I find that we do tend to be equipped to achieve what we want to achieve because we are led to pursue visions that are aligned with who we are. And, it’s always possible to bring other people onto our “dream team” to help us with the pieces of our dream that most challenge us. We are not meant to walk the path alone.
  5. See yourself achieving your dream. Visualize it!
    We are able to create in the world most powerfully when we can first see it happening. Know that you can achieve what you dream of, and that it first starts with believing.
Share your dreams with us here on 8womendream so we can cheer you on and remind you of what’s possible! To your dreams!


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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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  • Lisa

    I LOVE IT ~ especially when it is people that I love! Am so proud of these two! And they are such an inspiring example for the rest of us. And I love Malcolm Gladwell.

    To more dreams coming true :)

    Love ya Cath! XO

  • Lovely post and what a great dream story.

    I love this: “The dream was more than 5 years in the making…” because we don’t realize how long we often need to stick with something before we see the benefits. I always go back to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule in Outliners where he argues that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

    Which is about 4.5 – 5 years if you work at something 40 hours a week.

    It’s great to see dreams come true, isn’t it?

    Cath