I was recently asked if, on my Route 6 journey, I detected a theme in the more economically successful communities. Though a complex issue, my first gut response was - "yes, those that attract artists."
Provincetown is now one of the greatest, gayest, fun resort towns in America, getting the formula right early on. But not every area of the country is as lucky - natural beauty-wise - as Cape Cod. Yes, it attracted artists, but those artists came for a REASON; to paint the achingly gorgeous landscape at the edge of the world.
Though Provincetown is a Tourist Industry success, I did discover other struggling cities and towns that have emerged from or are digging out of economic despair:
1. Provincetown, MA; See above
|Frank Gehry Design|
Case Western Reserve University
|Rock and Roll Hall of Fame|
|Olga's Yarn Gift Shop|
3. Coudersport, PA; Here's where one couple can make a difference. I wrote about Olga Gallery Cafe and and Bistro in this post. Young and artsy, Olga and her husband John Snyder opened a feast-for-the-eyes, bursting with yarn and color gift shop/pub/venue for live music and people from near and far are hearing about little Coudersport, PA. The Snyders took a chance, offer the best food, craft beer and home-made one-of-a-kind crafted clothing and gifts, and are nearly singlehandedly bringing a sagging downtown back to life.
|John Deere Pavillion|
4. Moline, IL and the Quad Cities: Moline's got the Mississippi River, John Deere's headquarters with its immense and free interactive museum, one of the oldest soda fountains in the country, a water taxi to transport you around, and a lot of great tourist-draws - a city on the cusp of tourist popularity. I wrote about my impressions of Moline here, and I expect the quad cities will be discovered by the rest of the country soon.
|Pour House Vintages|
5. Friend, NE: entrepreneur and screen-writer, Carrey Potter has set up a lovely wine-tasting bistro called Pour House within a slowly-being-restored Friend Opera House. The small town “Opera House” is a grandiose moniker for the factory-type building that served as a theater and gathering place for residents who craved culture on the Plains. Many of these Opera Houses across the Midwest are in decay, but Carrey is turning back the clock in little Friend, NE. The Pour House featuring nine Nebraska wines and others draw people from 100 miles away. Carrey loves to play on words, reflected in the names of her house vintages; Betty White, Sknow White and Little Red Wrightinghood (which has a sweet snap a bit like a wine cooler). Soon to open - if not already - is an art gallery next door; Mary, Mary Quite Contrary.
6. Ashland, NE: Last but not least, I wrote the following about great little Ashland:
A friendly, artistic, pretty, open-minded, proud, wonderful small town. The Willow Point Art Gallery and Museum features a “Four Season” taxidermy’d woodland animal diorama, with a big polar bear as most popular draw. Owned by Mary Roncka and her artist-husband Gene, soothing music and a small waterfall gives the shop a spa-like feel. There, I met Roger Bratt, feisty Marti Fritzen and elegant Peg Lutton; officers in the Ashland Historical Society. They told me about local golden boy, astronaut Clayton Anderson, and the fact that Ashland has six buildings on the National Historic Register. The town is on the Ox Bow Trail –a limestone ledge on the Salt Creek River where Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail wagons could cross and not sink into the muck. Ashland has a worldly crossroads character, in spite of its small size.
|Cheri O'Kelly, owner, Cheri-O's|
|Roger Bratt at Cheri-O's|
|Kim Cooper, artist, Cooper's Art Gallery|
|Glacial Till Winery Tasting Room|
|Marti Fritzen and Peg Lutton|
Ashland Historical Society
On just one main street, there are several art galleries; Willow Point is one and Cooper Studio and Gallery in a former old Grocery Store is another. There, I met artist Kim Cooper and fell in love with one of his acrylic nature pieces, so I just had to buy it.
Right across the street, The Glacial Till Winery Tasting Room enticed me with its name alone. I was even more impressed when I walked into a swanky, streamlined bistro ($5 for 3-5 tastings) with ANOTHER art gallery upstairs; seemingly out-of-place, again, in small-town Nebraska. To get the full Ashland experience, have a sandwich at Cheri-O’s, a taste of vino at Glacial Till, peruse the art at Willow Point and Coopers and walk slowly down Silver St.