Living in a trail town is a great situation for families like mine who love to be outdoors, be active, and explore. However, living in a trail town has great opportunities for residents who don’t consider themselves “outdoorsy”. Our town and others like it have a community mindset where everyone wants to make it a more pleasant place to live. We host activities regularly that appeal to a wide variety of interests.
Recently Jon Harcharek of Stitches and Strokes, a local crafting and art hub, in partnership with the Rail Trail Council hosted a Paint Out on the Rail-Trail event. If you have never done a paint along activity such as this they are great fun. And you would be surprised at how well anyone can paint or draw with some simple instruction. You don’t have to be the next Rembrandt to produce a lovely piece of art that you would gladly display to others.
Jon was kind enough to answer a few interview questions about what inspired this event and future Paint Out on the Rail-Trail sessions.
“The beauty of our big backyard inspires nature lovers from all over. Stitches & Strokes is only two blocks from the D&H Rail Trail — Pennsylvania’s Trail of the Year — leading to spectacular views and vistas just a short hike away. So on Earth Day, we started a tradition of ‘plein air’ outdoor painting, celebrating Mother Earth’s beauty together. Now, it will be a monthly event sponsored by the Rail Trail Council of NEPA.”
I’ve been learning so much in the last few years about the effects of our high-tech/low nature exposure culture. The emotional and psychological benefits begin with just sitting outdoors quietly for a few minutes. So I asked Jon about the benefits of creating art while out in nature.
“The biggest benefit is ALL your senses are engaged. Sight, smell, sound, touch. Outdoor painting lets you see true light and shadows cameras can’t capture, the darkest darks and brightest brights, the way God made them. It’s real life, not a photo. That translates into real emotions in your work. Fresh air, fresh art.”
One of the greatest aspects of small town life is that others are so willing to share their talents and skills with each other. I asked “What do you enjoy most about teaching others to create art?” Jon replied, “Sharing the joy of discovery. Bringing out your inner artist. Making art is not magic, for people with special powers. We all have the gift inside us.” I look forward to joining one of these sessions!
Perhaps you think all this sounds amazing but you’re at a loss as to where to start joining these kinds of events near you. The best strategy is to search Facebook or Google for trail associations in your area. Reach out to someone you know who uses the local trails and parks to get connected. The various groups and councils who maintain and operate the Rail Trails are always thrilled to hear from more people who want to enjoy the trails.
Stitches & Strokes is a community arts center based in Forest City offering group and private classes, workshops and summer camps in arts & crafts, canvas painting, ceramics, jewelry-making and more. Check out their Facebook page here.
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