Far too often I hear "I hate this town", "There is nothing to do here", "I can't wait to get out of here" from my students. Truth is, they don't really hate it, they are just anxious for the change that comes with graduation. I always tell them someday you will miss a part of this place, you may not return, but you will miss something about this town. They don't believe me.
I will admit, I said pretty much every one of those comments myself when I was in high school. and I did leave, moved to a bigger city, but when the opportunity(JOB) arose I came back to a smaller place very similar to home. It was about 25 minutes away from my job. It took a little time for me to really appreciate it though. Last night I was reminded about what makes this place so special. Mr. MAC and I went with our good friend Steve to the downtown area of Mansfield for some live music. We saw an amazing Gospel Blues Band at the City News ; a newspaper, magazine, and cigar shop. We followed that with a cheese plate on the patio of another downtown establishment so we could sit and hear the Bands on the Bricks, which is the outdoor courtyard/parking lot made entirely of bricks. At the end of every month in the summer they bring in live music. Great music, great company, and great cheese. We continued to Relax....a coffeehouse and gallery open late to hear several small sets from different musicians, with the headliner being Jeff Bell, an artist and musician. This was all in the same city block. An area of Mansfield called the Carousel District. I would be remiss not to mention the other businesses that were already closed at 5; the galleries, the antique shops, the yarn store, bakery, hair salon, yoga studio and the famous Mansfield Carousel.
The town that I teach in is similar to where I went to high school. A farming community with a great little downtown area, with eclectic shops, local events, fantastic coffee house with a university right up the street with tons of events the entire community can participate in. They don't have a mall, or a Panera, but those are only 20 minutes away. They do have a Starbucks though. I am blessed because both communities are arts rich and value the arts. They have embraced the arts for the cultural, social, and economic benefits. They recognize their importance. This year, I am going to ask my students to investigate their communty a little bit more, and find some of those special places and arts opportunities to appreciate, and ways to invest in the arts for their entire lives. I am doing this for two reasons, one because we have added some emphasis on arts advocacy in our State Standards, and two, because I think they should see what their community really has to offer. Some day I know my students will miss their community, but if they learn to appreciate it now, maybe this will help them remember. But until then, I am glad to be home..or at least a place very much like it.