#MyTownProud: The Small Town Artist That Inspired Me the Most

This content is sponsored by the Monsanto Fund’s America’s Farmers Community Outreach programs, but views and thoughts are my own.

What makes you #MyTownProud? Before I moved to New England and found my small town, I got inspiration from where I'm from, and how it has helped my art. #ad

I admit that there was a period of time in my early 20’s in which I thought I wanted to live in NYC.

Now, I can’t believe I ever sought that life because I’m a country girl through and through, and I’ve been that way probably my whole life. It’s true that I lived in San Francisco for a short spell in the mid-2000’s, but that was a chance of a lifetime and an experiment. It didn’t last long, and soon I gave up living in a MIDDLE apartment in Golden Gate Park – sandwiched between, below, and above some loud neighbors – and traded it in for a New England town without its own stoplight.

This is where I find peace, and this is where my words and my art are the most inspired. It’s no surprise to me that I wound up living in a clearing in the woods on four acres, because I get it all from my mom! As a kid, we lived on top of a mountain and surrounded by cornfields. I always thought we had the best of everything. We had the dimension and the beauty of the elevation, but we were also on a place filled with crops and wildlife. My mom’s dream was always to own horses, and once she reached that dream, her dream was to own her own horse FARM, and she fulfilled that dream when I was an adult.

I’ve loved seeing it unfold.

My mom is an artist/art teacher, and her father was an artist too. As a writer and a photographer, I certainly relate to so many parts of her – her humor and quirks, the way she translates her hopes and dreams into visual creations, and the way she is at one with nature. We are both small town women, probably more so than anyone else in our family. I’m proud to be from a small town, and to have been inspired to be an artist – like my mom and my grandfather. Their art is in galleries.

Before I was born, my mom was an art teacher in the public schools. After she gave birth to my sister and then me, she had the foresight and inspiration to start an art school right out of her home. When we moved in with my dad and new siblings after she got re-married, my dad helped her create an even bigger art school in our new house. The business was and still is called Art Magic, and its existence is the only life I’ve ever known. When we moved to Blairstown, NJ about 15 years ago, my parents set down their small town roots and let them spread. They own a horse farm, and my mom is a curator/exhibitor at the town’s local art gallery on Main Street. You can’t go for a walk down Main Street without seeing a familiar face.

I used to joke that it was straight out of a movie, or a western. I’m #MyTownProud to be a part of this life.

My mom makes dioramas/dreamscapes. They involve a lengthy process that begins with her original pen and ink drawings. Then, her drawings are photographically reproduced and reduced in size. She takes the new drawings and dry mounts them to boards. Then she cuts them out and layers on colors with translucent films. The final product is a three-dimensional box – a juxtaposition of cultures, worlds, and images – intended to portray time as the past, present, and future as one event.

What I love is how receptive the town is to her art. She’s found a niche in a wonderful community.

Not long after we moved to Blairstown, the small town had an Arts & Local Business Night. All of the local businesses opened their doors and served food and drinks. It was warm and welcoming, and VERY country. I loved seeing residents ride horses down the street and then “park them” to go out to dinner. That’s when I knew we had found “home.” A forever home.

And THESE are the people you’ll find in small towns – full of love, warmth, inspiration, and complexity. Their stories have layers, and it’s so rewarding to find out how they came to do what they do, and how they came to live where they live.

What makes you #MyTownProud? Before I moved to New England and found my small town, I got inspiration from where I'm from, and how it has helped my art. #ad

I’m so proud to be from a small town, and to live in this rural setting I enjoy every day now. What I love is that The Monsanto Fund celebrates these amazing communities, and helps to make them even more vibrant for future generations through America’s Farmers Community Outreach. These America’s Farmers programs, sponsored by The Monsanto Fund, help put the farmer in the center of the story. In America’s rural communities, farmers not only provide food and fuel, but they are pivotal characters in their communities. They often serve as the backbone of the areas in which they live – like here. Through the Grow Communities, Grow Rural Education and Grow Ag Leaders programs, The Monsanto Fund celebrates the accomplishments throughout communities with grants to help them continue to grow and thrive. A new campaign sponsored by the programs called My Town will continue this celebration of the people, places and stories that make small towns great.

They do this with the help of local farmers.

Why are you #MyTownProud? Share your own why on social media with the #MyTownProud hashtag! Connect with America’s Farmers on their website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share your stories in those places!

Are you an artist? Can you think of a particular artist you love in your town?

#MyTownProud: 10 Things I Love About My Community

I love my small town living. I enjoy the greenery, the local produce, and the easier living. That’s why I’m proud to be sponsored by the Monsanto Fund’s America’s Farmers Community Outreach programs. Thoughts and views are 100% my own.

What do I love about my community in western MA? Everything! These 10 reasons are what I love & find important about where I raise my kids. #ad #MyTownProud

This place right here – in my writing, in my photos, and in my heart? This is my town. And, this is HOME.

For years after I had left New Jersey for San Francisco, and then eventually for a sleepy spot in the woods of western Massachusetts, I’d still call New Jersey home. If I was visiting my parents, I’d say I was “heading back home.” And in truth, I’m proud of my hometown. I grew up in cornfields, on baseball diamonds, at school events, and at 4H horse and craft shows. I grew up on a mountain full of farms and trails and bicycles. Sledding hills and friendly neighborhood kids.

I love my corn-fed, bike-riding, crayfish-catching childhood. And I love what we’re giving to my kids here in New England.

I love my home, and I love that this is the only home my kids have known. I hope they grow up to be #MyTownProud too! And I love that this town is on their birth certificates. We chose this town after driving over 3,000 miles from San Francisco – by way of Las Vegas, a blizzard going over the Rockies, a fogged-in Mt. Rushmore, a rainy Gary, Indiana, time in the Twin Cities, and a night on the US side of Niagara Falls. We saw SO MUCH of this great country – and took two weeks to explore.

Then, we landed at my in-laws’ doorstep, exhausted and expecting a child! We could have gone anywhere in the northeast, for the most part, but we fell in love with western Massachusetts – a part of the country I’d only ever visited twice. I had never seen a place so green. This is culture and food and land and recreation. Here are 10 things I love about my community.

Our own small town.

1 – When we aren’t together in person, we have wonderful and supportive online communities. We have one just to help people find lost cats! We have hand-me-down boards for people to re-home their items to good homes. There’s a page to warn each other about bears, fisher cats and skunks in the neighborhood! You can even use it to borrow sugar, find a handyman, or find a yoga class. While no one would argue that in person is best, this is a GREAT way to connect.

2 – The four seasons, first of all, but also the festivals and fairs that celebrate our unique land and its offerings. Who doesn’t love a good Peach Festival or Maple Fair? I mean, this is the very stuff that makes small town living more amazing!

3 – Culture. We have small cities and small towns sandwiched right here, and all of them share one thing in common – unique culture. There are art galleries down the street from me, and just last week I attended an immersive, OUTDOOR play. Wow!

4 – People go above and beyond to help each other. We run fundraisers and meal trains. We abide by the “It takes a village” mentality. I still remember my friend Leah babysitting for Scarlet when I had my first ultrasound with Des. Then when Des was born, she came over with a full meal for Scarlet, a full meal for me, and baby gifts. She held Des so I could eat and relax. If you need help, someone will help you. I love our community for that. I’ve received and have organized meal trains.

5 – There’s an emphasis on local, quality food, and farm-to-table fare that I have never seen anywhere else! I’ve only lived in three places, but western MA is a food-lover’s paradise. We’re written up in so many travel foodie articles.

6 – The land, and the wildlife in it. You NEVER know what you’ll see in your own garden and beyond.

7 – I love town center celebrations! We celebrate park and restaurant openings and even re-openings. We have tree lightings and barn-raisings. The town of Conway, MA had a 250th birthday party in June! We used to live there, and didn’t miss it.

8 – There’s a vibrant downtown and nightlife. I love driving through town after a movie, and seeing people walking through the streets late at night. There’s good music, food, dancing, and even breathing circles. There’s always something to do!

9 – I love the emphasis on handmade goods and gifts. I love the access to it too. There are galleries with all handmade items and you can find so many treasures while browsing through our community. I love to shop locally and handmade.

10 – Lastly, it’s a GREAT place to raise, support and encourage children. There are many local play groups that are free. You can use drop-in daycare just to grocery shop! There are organized parent night outs and plenty of ways to connect.

I’m so proud to be from a small town, and to live in this rural setting I enjoy every day now. What I love is that The Monsanto Fund celebrates these amazing communities, and helps to make them even more vibrant for future generations through America’s Farmers Community Outreach. These America’s Farmers programs, sponsored by The Monsanto Fund, help put the farmer in the center of the story. In America’s rural communities, farmers not only provide food and fuel, but they are pivotal characters in their communities. They often serve as the backbone of the areas in which they live – like here. Through the Grow Communities, Grow Rural Education and Grow Ag Leaders programs, The Monsanto Fund celebrates the accomplishments throughout communities with grants to help them continue to grow and thrive.

They do this with the help of local farmers.

What do I love about my community in western MA? Everything! These 10 reasons are what I love & find important about where I raise my kids. #ad #MyTownProud

Why are you #MyTownProud? Share your own why on social media with the #MyTownProud hashtag! Connect with America’s Farmers on their website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share your stories in those places!

Where are you from? Did you stay in your hometown, or find a new one?