A Letter From The Editor: Issue 6

Every fourth Thursday in November, nearly thirty people pile into my parents’ home at around four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s loud. About five of those people spend most of the time crowded around the television. There’s usually at least one baby crying most of the evening; everyone gossips about each other; one couple will certainly arrive late, after dinner has begun; and at least two dogs pee on the floor. It’s fantastic.

My mom wakes around six a.m. and spends most of the day cooking four pumpkin pies and a variety of casseroles. Most of the women in the family have a dish that everyone will be upset about if they don’t bring.

My mom wins at broccoli casserole; my aunt is famous for her fried potatoes and rolls. I swing my spatula at a vegetarian option, but usually just end up with dry mushrooms and rice that no one wants. In addition to the baked Butterball, my dad always fries a turkey that will inevitably almost catch fire or, at the very least, burn someone badly. It’s far and away my favorite day of the year.

Around seven o’clock you’ll find my twelve-year-old cousin curled up in a chair at the dining room table, frantically scribbling on a piece of orange construction paper. Look around the room and you’ll notice that almost everyone has retreated to their own comfortable chair to do the same. Our family’s Thanksgiving tradition instructs all members to write at least two things they’re thankful for on an anonymous scrap of paper and drop it into a glass pumpkin my mom uses to decorate the middle of the table. Later as we weed through the pile, we’ll read aloud things like “my new puppy,” or “my new baby,” or “those last few days with Grandma.”

top creatives heartland middle of america alive magazine st louis

Each artist we chose for this final issue of the year has crafted a creative career that we’re sure will fill you with as much gratitude as it has us. After suffering a sudden heart attack, Minnesota-based artist and writer David Coggins felt grateful to continue his prolific career. Coggins’ work has been exhibited everywhere from New York to Moscow, and touches on a range of subjects from his daily life to a bustling city square in Cairo. Nashville jewelry designer Blaque Reily was born to artist parents in rural Alaska. Now transplanted in Nashville, Tennessee, Reily creates elegant designs heavily influenced by her childhood and the natural world.

Ginny Sims, a ceramicist and educator thankful for the rich history of pottery, pays homage to past forms with work that bridges the existing gap between commonplace tableware and fine-art sculpture. In Kansas City, Missouri, Jessica and Ryan Mead show their appreciation for worldly inspiration with their eclectic mercantile.

Together with her restaurant group PopNashville, chef Sarah Gavigan played a main role in shaking up the culinary scene in this comfort-food capital. Spin a little jazz before diving into our story with Kansas City-based trumpeter Hermon Mehari. We thankfully caught up with him hot on the heels of an overseas tour and were able to learn a bit about how he writes such colorful improvisations.

After a year of consuming stories on the remarkable talent in Middle America, it’s easy to fill a small scrap of paper with my gratitude list. Next to the names of those I hold dear may be a small list of things like “a stroke of paint,” “a guitar solo,” “a slice of pie” and, of course, “those last few days with Grandma.”

Love,

Rachel

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