When you’re growing up in a small town, you don’t really understand the charm portrayed in a Norman Rockwell or Grandma Moses painting until you leave that painting and wander off in search of what lies beyond the confines of your beginning. I vividly remember my first trip to Manhattan, the awe of a teenager, taking in the grit of the subway, the incessant honk of the taxis and the transformative moment when I walked inside MOMA and breathed in that crisp, cool air. I knew I had to live there and be part of that energy and chaos, and learn all of what I was sure I had been missing in rural Vermont. After 18 years living in Manhattan, now what I want to soak up is different. It is the sense of place that you feel in your DNA when you cross the Vermont border, and cry silently and joyfully. It is the memories you have of your Grandmother waving at you, waiting for you, as you bump along the dirt road and into her arms. It is the laughter of people on a February night at River Arts at our first BrewHaHa; the warmth of community that comes alive when people gather for poetry, performance, painting, photography, and yes, even pickles and perch. Part of what I love most about River Arts is that an old-time Vermonter like my father and a fine artist can share the space on an equal footing moored by a love of place. As we worked on our strategic plan this year, we’ve had lengthy discussions about the buzzword “creative placemaking.” Do people know what that means? Is it inaccessible? Does it sound too high brow? As I watched people come together last Friday night, I realized that it’s not the term that matters, it’s how we make it tangible, and give people an opportunity to create a sense of place together in the Lamoille Valley. And my vision is that there will be a moment (hopefully many) when someone will drive by our historic building, and see a golden glow on the inside, shadows dancing, the music of community; and smile, deeply and widely, knowing that this is home. This is our place in the world.

— Carey Earle

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