A Little Vent About a Nearby Small Town

There’s a town an hour south of here that I have a very troubled relationship with. At the moment, I have a doctor I see in that town, but he is the only reason I go there.

I got involved in their art scene for a little while. I did a two-woman show at a local gallery. The gallery was packed and everyone knew each other. One man was absolutely obnoxious over two nude paintings. When I asked the gallery owner what was up, it turned out the man was her friend. She replied, “I’m sorry. He’s always this way. He’s a realtor in town and everyone knows him.” Apparently, that made it okay. I can laugh it off, but my partner in the show had trauma in her past and was visibly shaken. I can’t believe that was allowed to happen.

I also worked for an arts organization that helped the disabled in town. I was horrified when they would pick and choose who was more deserving of their help, even making ignorant comments about certain disabilities. 

I thought I was going to write off small towns forever.

I live in Toledo where there are more opportunities for artists. I can leave that town and be just fine. I couldn’t imagine being an artist in that town and those are the people you have to deal with if you want to get involved in the local art scene.

It’s hard to believe people act that way in the art scene. Aren’t artists supposed to be open-minded? Not everyone is your competition and it costs absolutely nothing to be nice.

Dealing with this town’s art scene was disappointing, but it was a learning experience. I am now more selective in what opportunities I take as an artist. It’s important that an opportunity is meaningful and not just something to add to my resume. It’s also important to get out of Ohio. 

Thanks for letting me vent. Feel free to share your learning experiences or other small town disappointments.


  1. Katydid says

    Here’s my two cents: Jerks exist. Everyone is familiar with the “mean girl” trope…but men can be just as bad, and for some reason most people are terrified to stand up to them, so they become mean adults. Small towns (or small groups, or small families, etc.) are more vulnerable to these people–especially when they get some power (for example, the real estate mogul).

    In the Patheos blogs, the non-religious section, there are several women blogging who came out of fundamentalist Christian backgrounds and they write often about how absolutely terrible these bullies are in closed, small churches like they belonged to. The women are absolutely brutal toward other women because in that system, the only ones they can bully are women. The men bully everyone. Periodically they’ll freak out because they try to bully the larger world, and people don’t put up with that because those religious bullies have no power outside their religious tribe.

    In bigger towns and cities, the reach of any particular bully is going to be dilute.

  2. says

    Very, very well said. And I believe true. Little, inbred, bubble cultures can get incredibly toxic and even self-destructive because they will not accept ANY change or new influence. They also get terrified by any difference in behaviour, or appearance, or culture/religion because bubbler cultures are actually quite fragile.
    In the forties, when Chinese restaurants first began appearing in Texas, in the small towns the buildings were often vandalized and owners were physically harassed because they were “attacking the Christian faith” by being Chinese and serving “different, heathen” food.

    • StevoR says

      Quite a few years ago a restaurant /shop serving Asian food was targeted by racists -arsonist racists – in my local town. South Aussie (Adelaide hills) here. FWIW. So, yeah. It is an issue and small towns can be pretty bad in a lot of ways as well as having their positive sides (community pulling together) as well.

  3. Katydid says

    Jeanette, interesting comment on the religious bubble. It sparks a recent thing in my neck of the woods. A couple of decades ago, I started taking yoga after an accident as part of a doctor-prescribed physical therapy program. I’ve kept it up over the years because I’ve found I like it; the place i go has excellent teachers and the owner of the studio is a medical doctor (not the one who originally asked me to try it!). The emphasis is on the mechanics of the poses and the safety of increasing your flexiibility and strength using only your own bodyweight. There’s also a lot of talk about the chemical reactions of even, deep breathing on the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and the longterm effects of reducing stress.

    In other words, it’s completely secular, with a science-y background.

    When a family friend disclosed to us a chronic medical condition and the bad effects it was having on her body, I suggested to her that she try a yoga class…and her immediate, hysterical answer was that she couldn’t because her church told her it was worshipping false gods and calling forth the (Christian) devil. There was simply no getting through to her. She was never going to think outside the bubble.

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