The artists of Conway

William Lester Stevens: The Old Mill

Who are the artists who lived or worked in your neighborhood? Who are the people nearby, who brought forth that spark of creativity inside called art, who became known for their dedication?

What’s artistic about where you live that inspired these folks? Art surrounds us, everywhere: where do you see it in your community?

In the hills, woods, and fields of Conway Massachusetts, artists less- and well-known have lived and continue to live among us. It’s exciting to contemplate that our small town inspired spirits before us, just as we continue to be inspired by where we live every day.

And so can you, too, be inspired by your community: what stories can you tell about where you live, or others who have lived there, reflecting dance, drama, music, painting, poetry, sculpture, or writing?

Near us, the names surprise:

  • Poet-playwright-diplomat Archibald MacLeish lived in an old manse on top of Pine Hill Road for almost five decades. It’s said that Bob Dylan visited him there, when they collaborated on a play celebrating Conway’s 200th.
  • Painter William Lester Stevens daubed scenes of bucolic bliss everywhere in town and lived in a stately old country house over on Cricket Hill Road.
  • Novelist Jack Crowley wrote his fantasy novel Little, Big in his house on Baptist Hill (yes, there’s lots of hills here!).  
  • Sculptor and painter Robert Mallary lived a few doors down from us while he taught at UMass-Amherst, right on Main Street. Mallary was a friend and collaborator of de Kooning, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollack.

And there are others whom I could mention. 

‘There’s something about the water’ is a phrase you hear in Conway. Something about the inner freedom of living in a beautiful place, full of rushing, windswept rivers, the deep, watchful silence of large trees, and the warmth of the people there who till the soil or drive the tractors or make things in the old brick buildings.

What are the stories of your neighborhood or town? Who danced there, and how? What’s poetic – what’s vibrant and vivid, or dark and disquieting? Where’s the music playing, and how late in the evening?

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