I Love Living in a Small Town!

Looking for a Good Meeting in Hawley, Massachusetts

Life  in Hawley, Massachusetts, pickles me Tink.

I recently became chair of our local volunteer arts council. This group, the Charlemont-Hawley Cultural Council, distributes funds once a year allocated to the towns of Charlemont and Hawley by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The grants go to projects involving the arts and the humanities, often with an educational component.

I had been a semi-active member of the council for the past few years. It often met when I was out of town, but I managed to participate by reading grant proposals and relaying my recommendations to the rest of the group.

This summer our council got an email from the state informing us that if no one volunteered to serve as chair (Mary Campbell of Charlemont, who epitomizes community spirit, had held the post as many years as she was legally able to) the council would receive no funds from the state for 2013. There was email silence for a while, and then I broke down and said I’d take on the job.

The council supports events that are important to our community, including Mohawk Trail Concerts, our local chamber-music series; many special programs in the local schools; and the Charlemont Forum, a summer lecture series on ethics and politics. It has even supported me in the past, giving me money to help publish my cookbook and write my food blog. It seemed heartless (not to mention ungrateful) not to step in.

From left to right: Joanne MacLean, Julia White, Ellen Miller, Andrea Santos, Pam Shrimpton, and Lida Forbes at last night’s meeting

The council met yesterday evening at the Hawley Town Office to discuss who would get funds in 2013. The council received more applications than it has in any other year so the process of making decisions was fascinating if occasionally frustrating. We had applications from schools, theater groups, the senior center, both towns’ historical societies, and individual artists, scholars, and musicians.

Our group, composed of four members from Charlemont and three from Hawley, worked swiftly and cheerfully together to find just the right combination of recipients to receive this year’s allocation. Pam Shrimpton of Hawley noted with delight how much fun it was to go to a meeting in which she actually got to make decisions instead of listen to endless (sometimes pointless!) discussion. We all felt lucky to be able to help worthy groups and individuals.

We nibbled on a little freshly baked pumpkin bread. And we were entertained by our almost-audience for the meeting. In keeping with the state’s open-meeting law, we had posted the time and date of our proposed meeting at both town halls, noting that the public was invited to attend.

In the end, the only members of the public who seemed interested in joining us were the farm animals across the road from the Hawley Town Office. The calves mooed at us as they surveyed the flowers outside the door.

And we had to shoo several chickens away from the doorway.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Obviously, to go to a Cultural-Council meeting!

I have a feeling the Cultural Council in Boston doesn’t have nearly this much fun….