So why are we here? Why Tucker County WV, and not traditional centers of creative activity – New York City, San Francisco, Los Angelas, Seattle, or Paris?
I know for myself, I had finally graduated to the big city in my field (photojournalism) – and in my case Washington DC – but after just six months of franticness and instability, I was drawn back to the solemn hills and green of West Virginia. It was a nerve thing. It was a conscious opting for peace of mind, less tension, and wide open green spaces – over living within a mass of humanity in a concrete jungle complete with road rage. I started to feel the rage well up inside me too. That is when it was time to go.
To move to West Virgina, and to do something creative here in the middle of nowhere, Thomas, WV – it has to be a move for the soul. It isn’t for fame or prestige. It isn’t for power or wealth. It is for peace of mind, for slowing down the pace and relaxing your tempo. It is for generating more creativity and spawning a like-minded community.
I know why I am here, but I decided to ask another artist, a real artist. So I took a walk to see Paul Lucchesi at the other end of town.
For those of you who don’t know Paul, let me introduce you, as related from another website:
“Paul has taught sculpture in Pientra Santa, Italy, a city with an established history as a marble and bronze sculpture location. Lucchesi’s work has been exhibited in the Bridgewater-Lustberg Gallery, NYC and many international galleries. He is the recipient of the Lindsay Morris Memorial Prize for the National Sculpture Society and the Henry Ward Ranger Fund Purchase Prize from the National Academy of Art and Design.”
Paul chose to vacate New York City and move here for a variety of reasons including complicated financial and personal reasons but he says, “why wouldn’t anyone want to live here? It’s beautiful.”
He was convinced to come to Thomas, sight unseen, by a good friend and fellow artist Danni Dawson, who had bought the Thomas building in which he resides (formerly the Riverfront Cafe on Front Street). She claimed it to be a magical place, a place where they could build something. She knew Paul had a love of cooking and thought the building’s built-in kitchen would lure him, as well as the possibility of doing artist retreats and workshops here.
Last year they hosted their first workshop here. Thomas is perfect for their students. “People without much money, they don’t have to go to Italy to study with us,” Paul says, “it is much more accessible.”
And besides, it reminded him of Italy.
“I am used to this kind of environment – no distractions, peace of mind,” Paul says. Next summer they plan to host three or four more gatherings – bringing more artists into the community. Who knows, they too may decide to stay.