I am extremely happy to have become part of the ArtsAltoona family.
I was born and raised in central Pennsylvania (Tyrone) and have lived here more often than not. I lived in urban areas (New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia) and rural areas (northern Vermont, where winter can be a way of life, and Simsbury, a village in upper Connecticut that looks like it fell off a winter scene postcard with skaters and scarves). I once worked in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the coldest place I have ever been – 40 below before wind chill is a winter fact of life!
I have seen some of the world, and would like to see more, but if I add up all my years, I would bet that this area is where the majority of my time has been spent. The fact is, I love it here.
During the past ten years, I have been continuing my lifelong work as a professional artist but I have also spent considerable time working for nonprofits. Those efforts have always combined youth and community programming with art, creative problem solving, collaboration and innovation to help create inclusive and sustainable entrepreneurship. We always look for ways of developing personal economies and empowering communities, something that lifts us all. A perfect segue for me into ArtsAltoona and our home in these mountains.
Towns and cities are always a makeup of the entire community, not just some parts of it. What you see is a mirror of that composite because the view is the last component of the whole – the skin that is visible. You cannot see the heartbeat behind it, but you know it’s there. The heartbeat and the creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness that always exist. Human assets ready to collaborate and develop innovative community solutions to the problems that persist, well, everywhere. There is no Oz out there, but there are unbelievably capable people. Civilization didn’t just show up in a box, it was created by people just like us. The future belongs to our vast ability to make something from nothing, a skill that is possessed by all human beings.
We can and will create our future, and we will thrive. Computers, automation, digital realities and a life of social interconnection unknown to the world just 10 years ago are benefits as well as challenges to face. At ArtsAltoona our after school programming is looking at solutions to bring the natural abilities of every human child to the surface though art and cultural programming, the perfect first step in opening the storehouse of invention.
As we progress, we will be looking to collaborate digitally and locally with other communities who face our challenges. We are working to solve the intricacies of developing creative, vibrant urban societies of working innovators who can bring income, jobs and new businesses to Altoona. But these potential generators, whether homegrown or from out of town, want to live in communities where culture is a way of life, not something you visit another town to see. We can do this. Yes, it’s a bit of a balancing act but Altoona and Blair county have been in existence for generation upon generation, and if you know your history, it has transitioned repeatedly. It can and will be done again. It needs to be a future that includes all, and the wonderful part of that is that everyone can contribute if we provide a means for them to do so.
I have seen this happen. And it can happen here. Like the civilizations I mentioned, this process doesn’t come in a box either. But that is good because each community creates its own, unique place. And that is how it should be.
For me, I am looking forward to it. ArtsAltoona is evolving. Stay in touch! We are always open to your thoughts, ideas and advice. You just never know where the next great idea will come from!
Very best to you all. Come on spring!