– By Carol Breeze, exhibit designer
Yellow was never my favorite color, and yet I fell in love with the guy who started Yellow Wednesdays at PGAV. He did not do it alone – the best things happen when we put our heads together – and I wasn’t there, but I think it goes something like this:
One morning, while wearing yellow pants and getting coffee, Steve ran into Debbie, who was wearing a yellow shirt. They pointed at each other, smiled, and said, “Yellow Wednesday!” and a tradition was born.
I don’t know how long it was going on by the time I started at PGAV; but on any given Wednesday, you could find five, 10, even 20 people proudly wearing bright yellow shirts. I didn’t think much of it in my early days in the studio. Over the years of Wednesdays, I watched as the folks with yellow shirts would gather for a yellow shirt picture, eat lunch in a cloud of yellow, and smile and point at one another with a friendly “Yellow!” that sounded a lot like “Hello!” Sometimes it was even sung to the Three Stooges’ tune. This always made me smile, but it didn’t motivate me to go out and buy a yellow shirt.
And it wasn’t until I fell in love with and married him that I found out that my Steve was one of the people who started Yellow Wednesday. I guess I should have known because he always wore yellow on Wednesday. Still, I was not moved enough to go out and buy yellow clothing.
Then, one Wednesday, Steve reached into his closet and put on a bright yellow shirt. It was the last day he would be in the studio for a while. I still didn’t have a yellow shirt, but I was too distracted to think much of it. I was scared. Steve was going to have brain surgery to remove a tumor. But Steve put on that shirt and went to work, because that’s what you do on Wednesdays. It was reassuring. This wasn’t his last day in the office, it was just Yellow Wednesday.
When we got to the office, Steve was not the only one wearing yellow. Every single person at PGAV wore yellow. And not just everyone in our St. Louis studio – everyone. Throughout the day people sent pictures smiling in yellow shirts from our sister office in Kansas City, to folks on-site, in meetings, and even on vacation. Everyone went about their day wearing yellow to show how much they loved Steve. I fought back tears all day. Something inside of me changed that day, it was kind of like that moment when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes bigger, only I think my heart turned yellow. This was the day I started to love yellow. It was the first time I wished I owned a yellow shirt.
But I was about to get really busy, and shopping for a yellow shirt was not on my radar. It turned out the brain tumor was the deadliest kind, a Glioblastoma Multiforme, and I didn’t care what color my clothes were, because we both knew our time together was limited.
Steve came back to work after the surgery and wore yellow shirts on Wednesday until the brain tumor returned. During that next year our life was almost normal. Steve continued to make beautiful art and exhibits with our design teams at PGAV. We loved each other harder and spent as much time together as possible. I didn’t want to take the time to find a yellow shirt, I just wanted to be with Steve.
The first time I bought a yellow shirt was well after the tumor had returned to Steve’s brain and his yellow shirt was falling apart. I bought one for Steve. He continued to wear that yellow shirt on Wednesdays even when the tumor’s advancement meant he could no longer use his right hand to design or his voice to express his thoughts. He wore it at home, because you wear yellow on Wednesdays.
Throughout that time, our PGAV family embraced us and showed that they needed us and loved us. There were so many extraordinary acts of simple kindness and tremendous generosity, both at work and through the giving of personal time, to help our family in so many ways. I am still humbled and so grateful for every act of kindness. Each one helped us through truly difficult moments and helped our family stay a family. Our teams leaned in to project work when we needed to be away. I’ll always remember stepping away from an important meeting because of an emergency at home, and coming back to find that the team had performed flawlessly. I was so proud and full of gratitude and was reminded, once again, of their talent, expertise, and passion. One day, a few designers picked up Steve and took him to a job site to see how the rockwork was coming along. That day was so good for him. He really enjoyed watching a new designer gain their confidence, find their voice, and create something fun and beautiful. I love them for giving him that day and recognizing all the gifts he had to give. Steve is a part of PGAV… he always will be.
The next time I searched for yellow was for myself. I needed something to wear to Steve’s Celebration of Life, and there was no way I was going without wearing yellow. I found a dress – it was perfect – and our son wore a yellow tie. The church was filled with yellow. The bright color seemed to lift our hearts, just a little. I always thought yellow was a hard color to wear, but that day everyone looked beautiful.
So… I love yellow.
When I see it… I see kindness. I see resilience. I see love. I see my PGAV family.