Bethlehem, NH – Establishing Community

BETHLEHEM, NH – Last Friday morning I drove 3 hours to a small rural community in Franconia National Park. Lately, New Hampshire has been in the news for the elections and the candidates who are running. The town of Franconia was also a prime spot on the campaign trail for many candidates who are running. For me, Bethlehem has as special significance as not only did I go to college in Bethlehem, PA, the famous Christmas and Steel City but I was invited to do a solo show in Bethlehem, NH. My first ever professional solo exhibition! I mean I exhibited my work in a local gift shop out near Northampton a couple of years ago, but that wasn’t nearly as professional. Coming from suburbia and city life experiencing a rural town was quite different. This trip taught me much about establishing community and bringing together what is left of a booming metropolitan. In the 1800s Bethlehem, NH was a booming metropolitan town boasting 20,000 as it was a top getaway destination for New Yokers. The town was situated right on the railroad which made an easy getaway. However after a fire that had destroyed much of the town’s hotels and establishments the town was left with 2500 people. The current residents have come together to establish a community of what was left of the town from the 1800s.

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Back in June 2015, I was invited to do a solo show at 42 Maple Contemporary Art Center one of three of the remaining art centers in the town. There is a historical theater there as well the brings in performances. Being used to city life, I embraced myself for a quiet evening in the town, but the opening happened to be on labor day weekend and the residents said the town ballooned. The attendees where a nice mix of old and young and overall a great experience. One of the neat things I learned about was WREN: Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network. A community of women who have come together to help bring a sense of community to the town. The organization started in Bethlehem, NH but has branched out to help other rural communities come together. If you haven’t been to New Hampshire or anywhere where it is rural, the residents are often very spread out and it is hard to sometimes form a community. I give a shoutout to my airbnb – Rob Macintosh in Benton, NH. I will write a separate post on my experience there!

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