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A culture of creativity

August 31, 2016

Maybe the tide is turning. Historically, the brain drain of rural areas like ours led all the bright young people with dreams to the cities, never to return. But in places like Highland Lake and Narrowsburg and even Monticello, NY, some of the most creative minds I know are building their own dreams.

It’s not just that the cities are expensive (they are) or crowded (ditto) or any of the other negatives that are often lodged regarding them, but that this place and others like it are so conducive to living comfortably without so many of the stresses that burden a creative mind.

For some I know, like Susan Dalton, an actress and mother and yoga instructor, it’s a place to grow her young boys that gives them a chance to raise farm animals and go to a school that values the whole child whatever his strengths. And for her, it’s a place to grow a business and explore new directions in her life. The Chi Hive in Narrowsburg and The Lazy Fox in Callicoon are two of her ventures that are already thriving.

NACL Theatre in Highland Lake is on the brink of its 20th season producing original theatre and presenting performance artists from all over the world. In 2000, Tannis Kowalchuk and Brad Krumholz, the co-directors of the boldly-named North American Cultural Laboratory, took a chance on their dream of “promoting a culture of creativity” right here in Sullivan County. Since then, NACL has grown into a brand recognized by theatre professionals internationally. The last two home-grown shows, “The Weather Project” and “Courage” tackled themes of climate change and war and brought in community members as performers and artistic collaborators. Next summer “Courage” will be presented at Governor’s Island in New York City as part of a city arts festival.

But even before NACL, people like Tom DeGaetani and Elaine Giguere envisioned a culture of arts professionals growing in their small town of Narrowsburg. As Elaine retires this year from her stewardship of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, she leaves us all one of the premier arts non-profits in the state, promoting visual arts, performing arts and film.