What has your journey after Williams looked like?
Whenever people ask me that, I’m brought back to when I was ten or eleven. I started my own gardening business over the summers and would plant people’s gardens for them just because I liked being outside and getting my hands dirty. In addition to playing outside with the neighborhood boys, that was my own private way of getting my hands in the ground.
Later in high school I started paying attention to the environment on a larger scale – taking environmental science classes, getting involved with activism.
I came to Williams as an athlete. My interest in activism and the environment, and later on art, seemed to conflict with my life as an athlete here. It felt like somehow in an unfortunate way that the two didn’t quite align. Eventually my body sort of broke down and playing the game wasn’t enough to stay. That’s when I opened up my time and space at Williams to fold more of my passions into my days.
I slowly sunk my teeth into the community and got a little bit involved with the student garden here and finally started nourishing my passion for that sort of thing.
Before graduation I started working at Mighty Food Farm where I stayed for six months. Then I did some farm education in Jackson, Wyoming. Last summer I was at Peace Valley full-time. I also did some work for an artist in the area.
Now, I work four or five days a week at Peace Valley Farm, two days a week painting for Mike Glier at his studio, and spend a lot of time on my own art and fixing up a studio in Pownal that’s sort of off the grid.
How have you dealt with not knowing where you’ll be in a year?
It’s been sort of stressful not knowing what’s next, but emotionally it’s been good for me because I’ve realized over the last few years is that I want my life to like its own landscape. I want to give my life time to stand still and breathe. I want to have experiences that pool into places like little swimming holes and for people to move in and out of my life more naturally than in seems like they are now with all the high-tech communication.
The things that I’ve gravitated towards allow me to have clear moments when time totally slows down and you can experience the richness of life everyday. It’s really sad when that goes away. I was working for one of the most famous artists in the world and doing education in the Tetons, but I felt like I wasn’t appreciated and everyday was the same. I was spreading myself thin. What I do now is try to seek inspiration and peace and harness all the energy I can to create things. I started my own stationary company a couple years ago and that’s been really exciting.
There’s so much out there that I want to see and do, but as long as I’m happy, it’s ok that I don’t know what’s next.
What convinced you to give up sports and focus your time on other interests?
I felt like I was skimming the surface with a lot of my classes and trying to fit in so much else – I was in an acapella group and in Amnesty and trying to work at the garden and do log lunch. Something had to give. I was jumping into the future and looking back on my time at Williams and wanting it to look very colorful and robust, and I realized that I had to take the sports out.
That sucked because I loved playing on the field – it’s a rush I can’t get anywhere else.
Were there moments once you decided to stop playing that you realized you were doing things that you couldn’t have done if you were still on the team?
The clearest example of that is the summer before my junior year. The previous two summers I had spent my time training for field hockey, but the summer before junior year I went to Greece and helped conserve turtle nests.
I found myself in more of a leadership role in a cappella. I was a JA. Being a part of a community is something that nurtures me so much. Now I have that on a larger scale in Williamstown because I know the local farmers and artists. Everyone is so supportive. I had a microcosm of that at Williams, getting more involved there and learning to bring people together. That’s a life skill that has helped me develop my own community outside of Williams.
Did you ever think you would be a farmer after Williams?
I had a dream of having my own farm. It was fading for a while because I thought that I needed time to write letters, and make art, and go on hikes. After a few seasons of farming, I realize that if I ever want to do it, I can just have a small scale operation or a big garden for my neighbors – it doesn’t have to be big. That’s a good realization because sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking ‘do I want to be an artist or a farmer? Do I want to teach or combine them?’
But yes, in college I had a serious dream of having a farm.
What about the art piece?
I didn’t come here thinking about the art program at all – didn’t even look at the art building on visits. I barely did art in high school – I took two classes. I’ve always drawn but not so consistently that I could call it a hobby.
But when I was here, I started taking classes just to experience them, and I turned from being a bio/psych major to a psych and art major to just an art major by my junior year. I shoved everything else out of the way because being in that building and creating something all the time and talking to people about projects was amazing. It made me such a better problem solver. It doesn’t seem like one of the more intellectual majors, and it isn’t, but it got me to change my thinking. You have to figure a lot of shit out when you’re an art major. You create something every week and say critical things about other people’s work and take some hard hits on your own work and cry every once in a while. It felt like more of an experience than the other majors.
Do you see a connection between the art and the farming?
In a literal sense they’re both very hands on and special. They’re also both very repetitive at times, which makes them sort of meditative. When you’re farming you’re taking care of the land the best you can and the vegetables and trying to feed people. With art, it’s also a nurturing process. You’re nurturing the ideas in your head and trying to bring them out and hoping to give people a contemplative moment when they view it.
I’m such a visual person so it’s nice to have these two jobs that are very visual, but also contrast each other. Sometimes I have paint on me from the art and dirt from the farming, which is a nice balance.
Do you envision doing both for a long time or do you think one will outweigh the other?
There’s definitely the possibility for one to outweigh the other. It could be a smart financial move to focus on one. I’m also falling into a seasonal pattern where I’m farming over the summer and fall and then I have lots of time for art in the winter. Then I’m considering going to art school in the spring.
I love both so much. I’m going to try to make some money on my art this winter, which would be great.
What’s the plan for that?
Mostly through the card business, but I also have a tiny show at Images coming up and another one lined up at Tunnel City or in North Adams.
It’s interesting working with Mike because he’s a Williams professor and a very established, amazing artist, but he still struggles with framing costs and shipping costs and understanding which galleries are going to be strong supporters. It’s sometimes intimidating to think that someone who is such an established artist isn’t just blowing up all over the place.
I’m also considering teaching art at some point.
You were also a pretty vocal activist at Williams. Does that fit in at all with the art and farming worlds?
It shows itself more quietly these days. It’s the kind of activism where you believe in something and you’re doing it and it nourishes the community in that way. I very much believe in community building as activism.
With my art, it has a more creative life there. I make little drawings of creatures that say one-line things about the world. As an art endeavor it’s my idea of sending these little messages all over the place that makes people stop and think about life. My beliefs inform my drawing so in that sense it’s a way of being an active citizen.
How have you come to define success?
No matter where I am or what I’m doing, success for me is staying in tune with how I want to be living, and that if I’m not happy, to make sure that I change that. Success is more of a lifestyle – it’s trying to make every day feel longer, not shorter.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea that people use the term ‘long day’ to mean a bad day. But you can have a good long day. I want to have more good long days and want to redefine what a ‘long day’ is. Time doesn’t have to own you. So I guess my idea of success is sticking it to time.
I also have to find a way to fold my passions into something that can sustain life financially.
I’m interested in this idea of ‘sticking it to time.’ What methods have you come up with for doing that?
I’m still figuring it out. Mostly I experience it when I’m alone – out on a hike or drawing or writing a letter. I have a lot of those moments when I’m farming. We play classical music whenever we seed and those moments are always sacred. It often happens when I’m up early in the morning – this morning I got up at 5:30 and the head farmer and I were transplanting some plants and the sun was coming up in the valley. We were just chatting and not rushing to get through anything.
In a broader sense it’s just giving the day time to breath if that makes sense. It probably works differently for everyone. But trying to have peaceful moments. Looking back on certain moments, some feel like they went fast and some feel very whole and like time was extended.
People say that college went by so fast, but I don’t know if it really went fast for me. Senior year didn’t feel fast and maybe that’s because I was living with seven girls that I loved and we made time for wine nights. Maybe it’s just not rushing through things because any time you rush through something it feels fast.
What advice would you give to Williams students preparing for the real world?
Do something that you’re scared of but that you want to try out. The things I value most that I’ve done involve taking risks. Fixing up the studio I’m working on now seemed like such an insane thing to do. There’s not even a woodstove in there, and I’m planning on being there in the winter. There are tons of beehives. I don’t know how to fix things like that, but I said, ‘I’ll learn stuff and maybe I’ll end up with a studio that I really love.’
Taking risks is a really important thing to do. I’m not saying not to think things through. But taking risks that make sense in your life and not doing what people say, is important. It’s sort of a risk moving back here because there’s a stigma against alumni living here soon after college. But I feel good here and like my life here. There’s not much sense to move when I’m happy. Remind yourself what makes you happy and do that.
Do you have a longer term plan?
I’m going by nine-month stretches at this point, which is the length of a lease. I’m planning on being here longer – maybe one to three years. But I understand that I could want to live here the rest of my life.
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in farming or art specifically?
There are so many cool farms everywhere. I think it’s easy to get a job on a farm crew. You can go to goodfoodjobs.com – they list a lot of agriculture jobs – that’s a good option.
In terms of art, that’s more fallen into my lap. The reason I started working with Mike is that he heard I was in the area, and he had been my professor. A lot of the jobs I’ve had are through connections with people. That’s how life works, but it’s hard to explain or replicate. I guess it takes some resourcefulness and gumption.