Weir Farm Artist Collective

Last week I headed over to Weir Farm National Historic Park for the inaugural Weir Farm Artist Collective meeting.

Weir Farm is really special to me. It’s the only National Park in Connecticut aside from a teensy-tiny portion of the Appalachian Trail. I love National Parks, and was even married in one, so when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Weir Farm is where I took my first “artist date” in 2017.

My first time visiting Weir Farm, January 2017

Weir Farm National Historic Park: The National Park for Art

The park was once home and studio workplace to J. Alden Weir, an American impressionist painter. When he bought the farm, he was inspired by the acres upon acres of natural beauty it offered. While he lived there, he developed its captivating qualities by digging a large scale pond and additions such as a painting studio and a “palace car”—which a younger me is pictured with above. Weir loved to paint en plein air (outdoors) and didn’t want harsh Connecticut winters getting in between him and his muse, his property, so he had this little shed on wheels that he’d take over to his inspiration point and step inside for shelter while he painted.

J. Alden Weir’s mobile painting studio, Palace Car

After J. Alden Weir died, the farm was home to several other artists, including his daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, Mahonri Young, grandson of Brigham Young. (Ya know, the Mormon guy? The one the college in Utah is named after?) It continued to be a private property owned by artists Doris and Sperry Andrews until it was designated a National Historic Site in 1990. It was only in 2021 that Weir Farm was officially designated a National Historic Park, which indicated that it has greater physical extent and complexity than the previous title, and allowed for more funding—I haven’t even gotten the chance yet to see all of the new exhibits!

Because the farm is not only a place of beauty but historically significant for its contribution to the arts, it’s been deemed “The National Park for Art.” There’s an artist-in-residence program, which isn’t abnormal for a National Parks and their push for their Arts in the Park initiative. What is different, however, is that it is only at Weir Farm that they supply art supplies to visitors of all ages so that they, too, can be inspired to create by their surroundings. Beginner and professional painters alike can be seen throughout the park, many set up with their own plein air painting gear and umbrellas for shade.

My lovely friend when she visited the park with me from Texas, October 2017

Over my several visits, I’ve made watercolor works with their provided supplies and several sketches. I even threw together a painting and submitted it to their Art in the Park Contest in 2021 that I’m now too embarrassed to post. Such is the artist life, always improving and not wanting to look back!

Preparing to sketch, May 2017

Weir’s continued significance for me

In 2021, Weir Farm was getting designated as a National Historic Park while I was in a really rough spot. I was over a year into that yucky ol’ pandemic thing and I had good reason to believe my marriage was coming to an end with all my sense of security headed down the drain with it. It was a time that was challenging but suddenly invigorating. I was getting a lot of help through therapy via zoom, a CBT app, and a weight loss app. I was learning to reparent myself to move on from my childhood trauma so I could muster the strength to weather storms that became unbearable. So when my birthday came around, I treated my inner child as I would care for my own children: I bought myself balloons, gifts and wrapping paper, then told the kids to wrap the gifts. I planned an all-day outing with my boys, first to Weir Farm for us to make art, lunch, and onto to The Aldrich to view art.

Breakfast on my birthday, 2021
Weir Farm, making art on my birthday, July 2021
The Aldrich sculpture garden, July 2021

When my friends caught wind of the buying-balloons-for-myself thing via group text the night before, they made reservations for us to have a nice dinner—my first kid-free restaurant outing since that whole pandemic thing.

Me, July 2021

It was over dinner with those friends when I declared: “You know what? If he wants to leave me, fine. I’ll stop worrying about him. I’m gonna do me—me and the kids. I’ve lost this weight, I look good, I’m gonna feel good. I’m having a hot girl summer. He can be along for the ride, he can—not.”

Turns out, that was precisely what our marriage needed: for me to get well. For him to get well. Though we thankfully, surprisingly, (with all the knock on wood required) never became ill with Covid-19, we were sick emotionally and dragging each other down. We were drowning in chaos of a globally-shared trauma, but instead of slowing the breath and relaxing the body to float, we were flailing, creating more waves to splash into the others’ eyes, pressing down upon one another’s shoulders in attempts to grasp a desperate breath.

All that to say, Weir Farm has twice played a role in turning points in my life. The Artist’s Way, including the artist’s dates that Weir was the first of, tore down the barriers that disallowed artistic vulnerability and ultimately changed my life. That 2021 birthday at Weir was a turning point in caring for myself and loving myself the way that a parent should have, furthering my ability and freedom to express myself.

…and Weir does it again.

How interesting is it, then, that Weir is apart of a third pivotal moment? Years ago, with success building from my local gift economy group, a friend suggested we make a local group for creative people. She started a Facebook group for it, but neither of us clearly wanted to put forth the effort required to build it out initially, then our friendship came to a close. The yearning for a group of creative-minded individuals to get together for conversations unrelated to our children, husbands, and obligations didn’t cease. In January 2022, I updated my vision board for the first time in 7 years, and I see it every time I’m at my desk, front and center: Artist Community.

Vision Board, January 2022

Here it is—Weir it is!

Though I imagined that I’d start an artist’s group in my town, I like that I’ll be meeting with this group at a destination that’s a not-too-far (29 minutes) destination—I’m far enough away where I’ll be committed to creating once I’ve gotten there. I love that it’s brand new, so I’ll be apart of the process as it unfolds. It’s low-key, and I’ve already received very helpful insights from members.

En plein air oil painting is a long-term goal of mine, but even sketching on location that day ended up with me so nervous and uncomfortable that I didn’t come home with anything I’m proud of. Later, at home, I sketched this of one of the other painters in the group.

En plein air at Weir sketch, May 2023

With the next meeting next month, I feel encouraged to create a Weir inspired painting for the next time we meet!

Thomas Edison National History Park: Laboratory and Home Tours

I first heard about Thomas Edison’s Laboratory being in the U.S. park service after seeing a picture of it on Mike’s Photo Blog. My eight-year-old son is fascinated by all things chemistry and has dreamed of being an inventor since he learned the term, so I knew one day we’d make it over in that direction.

Before my sister & brother-in-law’s visit, where we hiked Kaaterskill Falls and Sam’s Point in Minnewaska, my stepsister, Allie, came for a visit as well.

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We spent most of the time relaxing, sharing girl talk, and cooking together. After I dropped her off at Newark Airport, I thought I’d check and see how far the Edison Lab would be before returning home. It turns out that that the museum and park are only twenty minutes from EWR!

Please excuse the quality of the following photos; I had only my phone with me and the weather was absolutely miserable on this particular day.

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It was nice that the weather wasn’t that great, because the park wasn’t busy. Not at all. Anti-intellectualism could be the reason that there were only a handful of people at any given time during the hours we were there, but I’d like to think it was the weather.

After paying my $10 entry free (Tobias, and all children under 16 are free), we first made our way over to the lab for a demonstration about chemistry.

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Did you know that Thomas Edison not only made advancements to the light bulb, but he also created a rubber alternative from genetically modified Goldrenrod? How about that he was once known as the Wizard of Menlo Park, because when he invented the phonograph, people were so astonished by hearing recorded voices played back that they deemed it magic?

With all that it takes to impress someone these days, isn’t that just the quaintest thing?! A magician for playing back sounds! Continue reading “Thomas Edison National History Park: Laboratory and Home Tours”

Hiking Jenny Lake

Following three days in Yellowstone National Park, we made our way over to Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton was originally a side note to the trip. Flights out of the area that were the most reasonably priced were coming out of Jackson Hole, and I noticed to get there from Yellowstone, we’d go through the park. If you couldn’t tell by my wedding at Joshua Tree, I’ve kinda got a thing for National Parks. I was pretty stoked to cross another off of my list.

After a bit of lurking on TripAdvisor, we were dead set on doing some hang gliding. Yes, you read that right. It was the most thrilling thing on our itinerary.

Unfortunately, their runways were flooded during the time we’d be there, so we settled for a hike and a picnic around Jenny Lake. It didn’t disappoint.

Hiking Jenny Lake in Grand Teton NP-2 Continue reading “Hiking Jenny Lake”

Our Wedding Video!

Yay! I’m so excited to share our wedding video with you. Yesterday I posted a duo of photos from the wedding on Instagram, today I went to the social security office to begin to change my name, and made it FBO!*

This journey has been so exciting all throughout–at first keeping hush about it was the worst, I’m always the most open person in the room. I knew it’d be “more fun” this way and it sure was!

Without further ado… Continue reading “Our Wedding Video!”