An open letter first shared by our Founder, Corey McGuire, with the Winston House community on November 3, 2016 at The Shins x Pasted x Winston House experience.
Three years ago today I moved into this house.
It didn’t feel like home at the time, but I was excited to be here. I had recently graduated from college and had just moved to Los Angeles from Seattle. I came here for the same reason many people do: to pursue a dream in the place where anything seems possible.
My first year and half in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to live in this house with five other entrepreneurs. All of them were older, smarter, more experienced, already successful and endlessly generous in their desire to help me grow. Because of living in this house with those five people, that first year and a half in LA was the most formative time of my life. I received the education I never had in school. I learned by doing and I learned by failing.
By the summer of 2015, for a variety of reasons, my housemates all started to move out, and I was left with a house full of memories, vacant rooms, and looming rent.
It was in that period of uncertainty that Winston House as people know it today was born.
It started with a phone call from a longtime friend telling me her younger brother had dropped out of college. The kid didn’t want to study music, he just wanted to do music. So I offered Corey Harper a room for two weeks and didn’t think much of it.
But not long after Harper had moved in, a lightbulb went off for me. I realized that he was just like me when I first came to Los Angeles. What he lacked was the community I had.
Not everyone who moves to this city is as lucky as I was, with a supportive community from day one. Now, the idea of putting artists together in a single space is not a new one. But, as we all know, we live in a rapidly changing world. Shifts in how we do work, make art, and connect virtually can mean that many talented millennials who move to a city like Los Angeles with big dreams end up falling through the cracks. I thought I could create a space, and maybe one-day a business, that provided that home-away-from-home for Harper and others like him.
So, I made a crazy decision: instead of renting out the recently vacated rooms to new tenants, I started giving rooms away for free to young artists new to the city. Even though I didn’t have enough money to cover rent by myself, I just followed my gut and hoped for the best.
The next 8 months were the most stressful of my life. Trying to keep this house open, I woke up with anxiety everyday. Yet somehow, over and over, people inspired by what we were doing stepped in to cover our costs, usually at the moment I was about to tell everyone that we’d have to be packed up and moved out by the next day.
Despite financial obstacles, our community was flourishing. By early 2016, hundreds if not thousands of young creatives had come through Winston House. We threw weekly house shows, much like tonight, that pretty quickly turned into a bigger thing. We were getting hundreds of emails and handwritten letters from all over the world from young people and artists who were inspired by what we were doing.
I felt like I had been entrusted with something special, now the hard part became how to grow and protect it.
In February 2016, Justin Bieber played a show here before his Purpose Tour. Word got out and it brought all of the attention you’d expect, and people started looking at us a little bit differently. At first, I felt threatened because I didn’t want people coming to us for the wrong reasons, but Justin told us how much he loved it, and it made me realize how much we had to offer creatives no matter where they were at in their journey.
I’m proud to say that our culture of friendliness, positivity, and supporting creatives has stayed intact. That is 100% because of so many of you. You are the core of Winston House. At some point, the Winston name became less about this place and more about a group of people and shared sense of purpose and community. We are powerful not because you show up at a house, but because you show up for each other. The most powerful thing about Winston House is the relationship that bind us together: a community of leaders who believe the world doesn’t need us to gain more followers, it needs us to help create more leaders.
Winston House was born in Venice, a place that has long represented counterculture, but has gentrified very quickly. While in certain ways Winston House represents that change, I believe we have an opportunity to be a safe-keeper of the Venice tradition. We can play a positive role in this community by playing a positive role in the lives of the best, the brightest, and most principled creators who come here. We can pay homage to the past while partnering with the people who are co-creating the future, not just here in Venice but around the world one day.
We dream about Winston House locations in cities all over the world: homes away from home where you can always find friends to welcome you, mentors to challenge you, artists to inspire you.
There’s so many things that I’m excited about in the future. But if I could leave you with one idea, it’s this: if you’re a part of Winston House, no matter where you are in the world we hope you’ll feel at home, either because we have a Winston House location there, or because you’re never far away from a friend.
Corey McGuire - November 3, 2016