Escape Into Life Celebration

Friend Michelle Barclay and Contributors Gretta Barclay and Kathleen Kirk

What a year. After Christopher Al-Aswad passed away suddenly on July 27th, 2010, he left behind the world he had created in Escape into Life. Chris built the online arts journal from the ground up, reaching out to writers, artists, and contributors on a multi-national basis, establishing a village of collaboration through varying perspectives of music, art, and literature. His early departure from this world left his followers reeling and the future of Escape into Life (EIL) uncertain. But Chris’s legacy was one that had to persevere.

Contributors Christina Wegman, Teia Pearson, and Chris Aris

So the dust began to settle. Several dedicated contributors stepped up bravely to the plate to keep the site alive. My best friend, Mandy, Chris’s younger sister, wisely stood back for a month or two, observing how everything functioned in Chris’s absence. She took note of the posting schedule, of the contributors, and assured her helping hands that things would become normal again. Eventually, she formally stepped in as CEO of Escape into Life. With the help of those loyal followers, the site continued as it was under Chris’s careful direction. And all at once, again the site began to thrive.

CEO Mandy Al-Aswad and Contributor Ashley Devick

Mandy would always talk to me about EIL and the incredible group of individuals who were keeping the site, not only functional but always evolving and improving. I knew I wanted to be involved in some capacity. I was a creative writing major in college. I dabbled in painting, tried to learn everything I could about photography – but among these other hobbies, I was always an editor. So I found my place, editing some of the work prior to it being published on the site, throwing out content ideas here and there, and hoping to help take some of the intense work off of her plate. She kept thanking me for my meager contributions to the site, but what she didn’t know was that she was also saving me. I missed being surrounded by art and creativity and needed this outlet more than ever.

So onward we went. I stood in awe, watching my friend grow with the site, taking on unknown responsibilities, learning how to manage the content, and gradually making the site into a blend of Chris’s vision and the pending growth we all knew he had in mind.

(left to right) Ashley Devick, Christina Wegman, Chris Aris, Teia Pearson, Mandy Al-Aswad, Kathleen Kirk, and Carmelita Caruana

Of course, this couldn’t have been done without the help of the loyal contributors, who continued onward with respect and dedication to what had already been built. They pointed out the aspects of the site that needed to evolve and also showed patience as they waited for the site to gain its own momentum again.

Chris’s Dad, Basel Al-Aswad and friend Kavita Sagrani

This past weekend, Chris’s family hosted a gathering of sorts – a celebration of the continuation of the site, a memorial of a life lost too soon, and a collaboration of like-minded individuals with an interest in exposing the pulse of the art world. Mandy made the big announcement that the Escape Into Life Online Arts Store, where artists of various mediums could sell their own work, had officially launched. In addition, there was a coming together of those individuals who committed their time and energy, dedicated to keeping the site alive. Through conversation and camaraderie, we learned from one another.

Mandy Al-Aswad and boyfriend/CTO Thomas Steinmetz

There will be new ideas – there will be growth. There will be some change, but then again, change is inevitable. But the basic principals of the site remain very much the same – right down to each photo posted and word written. Through the hard work of a few outstanding individuals, Escape into Life will continue to breathe, to grow.  That in itself is pretty damn amazing.




 What’s New, What’s Coming on Escape into Life

 The Escape Into Life Arts Store is now live!

New team of literary professionals with Matt Dye and Jason Reynolds.

New Contributors:  Chris Kapolas (Music), Christian Harder (Essays), Nick Martin (Reviews and Videos)

The Escape Into Life Blog

….and much, much more.

7 responses to “Escape Into Life Celebration”

  1. What a great idea to start an Escape Into Life (EIL) blog! 

    And what a good place to start with the get together Chris’s dad organised, that co-incided both with Chris’s passing and with Mandy’s launch of the EIL store, in many ways the launching of Phase Two of this website.

    Besides wanting to thank the Al-Aswads’s for getting us all together – it really was SO good to meet other people on this hard wordking EIL team – I was wondering: what happens if someone likes the work of an artist who is on EIL but not yet in the store….do they leave a comment here or email Mandy to enquire or what?


  2. Ashley Devick says:

    Thanks so much! We are extremely excited about the blog. Lots of invigorating content is going to be released soon. The goal is absolutely to get some people to comment here and to build an interactive site. Excited to see the reactions!

  3. Ashley Devick says:

    Thanks so much! We are extremely excited about the blog. Lots of invigorating content is going to be released soon. The goal is absolutely to get some people to comment here and to build an interactive site. Excited to see the reactions!

  4. It was a wonderful coming together of Christopher’s family and friends, including “virtual” ones who never met Chris in person! After leading us all in the “Circle of Respect” ceremony in which we acknowledge belonging to the universe story, the earth and one another, I shared a few thoughts about the year since Chris’ death. Basel spoke briefly and then Mandy, about the “Escape Into Life” website. A bit of silence then evoked beautiful words called out from the 80 or so present: “gratitude, love, peace, joy, creativity, hope, memories, friendship, life, legacy . . . .” enough positive energy to set the world on fire!

  5. Mandy Al-Aswad says:

    Email me at! 🙂 Thank you everyone!

  6. EIL says:

    Thank you John for your support! Chris is surly smiling down on us all 🙂

  7. […] the last days of July. I was there specifically to commemorate the life of Escape Into Life founder Chris Al-Aswad, celebrate the past and future of EIL, and meet fellow contributors to the online arts magazine that I am so proud to be affiliated with. […]

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