“The number … of people working in arts and crafts in our region here is sufficient that we don't have to go all that far to find resources and acquaintances with people who are… working at a high level of craft,” says Anna.
When metalworkers Don Bell and Anna Loney talk about their lives in Lanesboro, they keep coming back to two things: the beauty of the bright blue sky, and the joy they’ve found in the connections they’ve made.
After becoming dissatisfied with the quality of life in their Pittsburgh home, they turned their attention to Lanesboro, the town where Don’s grandparents grew up. At first, they weren’t sure if they wanted the move to be permanent, and rented a house for just one year.
As time passed, they found themselves adjusting to the small-town way of life—and liking it. Instead of relying on grocery stores for bread, Don began to bake it himself, and found that baking required an artistry of its own. He also began to write stories about his childhood visits to Lanesboro and read them on the Over the Back Fence community variety show. Both artists formed meaningful connections with local artists and organizations like Lanesboro Arts. By the end of the year, the warmth and generosity of the community convinced them that Lanesboro was the right place to be.
“It was much easier to find community here. … I mean, we knew our neighbors,” says Don. “And people you don’t even know say ‘hi’ to you on the street.”
“Also, here, people smile a lot more than in our world in Pittsburgh,” Anna added.
Since moving to Lanesboro, Don and Anna have found that their artistic process has evolved in response to their rural environment. In a small town so far away from major cities, metalworkers like Don and Anna are often called upon to make repairs. Blending artistry and practicality, the two metalworkers find ways to bring out the beauty in functional objects, and are finely attuned to the needs of their community.
“Part of the way we were able to approach our life here is understanding that there’s a lot of little things that need to get done in a community like this,” says Anna, when discussing how being a part of a rural community has shaped her artistic practice.
Anna fondly recalls a time when she was sought after by a woman who needed gates to keep her dogs out of her living room. The woman wanted the gates to be decorated by ornamental metal dragons. While local steel fabricators were more than capable of making functional gates, they weren’t able to provide the artistic touches she wanted. As artists and craftspeople, Don and Anna were uniquely qualified to bring her vision to life.
As Don puts it, “I feel like about half of what we do is art, and the other half is craft.”
They’ve also enjoyed being part of a community that values the work that goes into creating art.
“There is general appreciation for people who work in arts and making, the making of things,” says Anna.
Living in Lanesboro has allowed them to make connections with other passionate and well-regarded artists and craftspeople. The artists have also been able to make professional connections with organizations like Lanesboro Arts. In fact, Anna’s jewelry is sold in the Lanesboro Arts Sales Gallery.
“The number … of people working in arts and crafts in our region here is sufficient that we don’t have to go all that far to find resources and acquaintances with people who are… working at a high level of craft,” says Anna.
Lately, Don and Anna have been thinking more and more about the Lanesboro Arts Campus initiative. They seem especially well-suited to the project: much like the artists’ work, the arts campus initiative is both functional—facilitating economic growth and community togetherness—and beautiful. They hope to one day create a sculptural statement piece for the town.
Whatever their future may hold, one thing is for certain: they will continue to be a part of the Lanesboro community.
“In general, when I go walking down the street or driving through the town, I feel real comfort in the faces I encounter and the conversations I have, and the projects I see going on,” says Anna. “And it’s a place that I can see staying in for a good, long while. I don’t feel the need to move on at present. It’s nice to be here.”