To celebrate our fifth anniversary we asked for your stories about 20x200 art. You made us laugh, you made us tear up, you made us repeatedly forward your posts and emails around the office because we were so moved or excited by what we were reading. You impressed the heck out of us. Thank you.

Our plan was to choose our five favorite storytellers and offer each of them an Artist Print from our sold out editions. Instead, we chose six winners and five runners up, because you are just that good. We’ll be sharing all of the winning stories in their entirety, and we start today with Emily Phares’s funny, endearing tale of art, romantic first dates, and ice spheres:

Here’s my story about how your art figures into my life.

In terms of design—what I wear, how I decorate—I keep things simple.  Quality & individuality matter a lot, and at the end of the day I don’t want to accumulate lots of things, but to have a small collection of things I really love.  And my 20x200 purchase, Trey Speegle’s YES (You Complete the Picture) [above] is one of my favorite things.  It makes me happy every time I look at it; I even recently contacted Trey to request a copy of his catalog.

But my sheer love of that piece of art isn’t the highlight of my 20x200 story.  20x200, interestingly, made an appearance on my first date with my now-boyfriend.  We met for drinks at a bar in Boston.  (As an aside, his drink came with something called an “ice sphere,” which is basically a huge ice ball that occupies most of your glass.  I definitely support choosing drinks with ice spheres on first dates; it’s a good way to break the ice.  [I’m sorry, I can’t resist a terrible pun.])  Fortunately my date and I had lots more to talk about, and art was a topic of interest. The bar we were in had art hanging everywhere, and when we asked about a particular piece the waitress gave us some background on it, and told us a bit about the person who picked it out.  That lead to further conversation about art, and for some reason, my now-boyfriend and I got on the topic of 20x200; I was probably telling him how much I liked the Trey Speegle piece I got, and he started telling me about the piece he got—Austin Kleon’s Overheard on the Titanic.

Then, later in the evening when we went to leave, hanging right there on the wall as we neared the door was the very same Austin Kleon piece—Overheard on the Titanic. Such a coincidence.

And so that, dear 20x200 staffers who may be reading this piece, is how art, and 20x200 specifically, was a common thread for me and my boyfriend on our first date, and even more interestingly, that 20x200 made an appearance.  So, ice spheres and 20x200—first date fun.

—Emily Phares, @emphares