Calling All Artists and Writers: Find Inspiration in Merrimack Valley

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Sometimes as a writer or an artist, we can get a little stuck. A writer might ask, what should my character do next? An artist might be struggling to find the right hue of blue for their painting. Across creative mediums, we all encounter the dreaded creative block that leaves us unable to get to that eureka moment in our work. 

While we might be tempted to sit and stare at a blank canvas or an empty word document, it could be better for your inspiration to try something else. Below are some of the places to visit in the Greater Merrimack Valley to relax, let the creativity spark, and it will surely inspire you. 

Visit the Historical Homes

With such a rich history in the Merrimack Valley, it’s no surprise countless artists and writers have grown up in the area and made a name for themselves across the valley, the country, and even around the world. 

The Thoreau Farm 

Exterior of Thoreau Farm
Photo Credit: Thoreau Farm

As Thoreau once said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

And trust us, there is something to see at the Thoreau Farm or the “Minott House” as Thoreau had referred to it. From now through October, it’s open Saturdays and Sundays. With free admission (though a suggested donation of five dollars) you can peek inside the restored 1730s house and you can see the exact spot where he was born in a second-floor room. 

If you are a writer, looking for a unique space and time to work on your project, consider signing up for a writing retreat right inside Thoreau Farm. 

The Wayside House

 

Did you know that the Wayside House used to be called the Hillside House by Louisa May Alcott and her family when they lived there in 1845 from 1852? Whether “Hillside” to “Wayside” no matter the name, this home holds over three centuries of history.

This notable house was the home of Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney. Beyond just literary pursuits, the Wayside home is also an important part of American history and is now a part of the National Underground Network to Freedom

 

The Orchard House

You certainly want to visit The Wayside if you’re a fan of Little Women, but to see the exact spot where Louisa May Alcott wrote her literary classic, you’ll need to visit the Orchard House

The Orchard house earned its name with sprawling grounds that contained over 40 apple trees. If you’re a painter, just imagine the rich colors and scenic views! As many visitors comment, “A visit to Orchard House is like a walk through Little Women!” 

The Old Manse

The Old Manse House exterior picture

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the beautiful Georgian house that was once the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Step into Old Manse, and step back in time to see where Emerson drafted some of his most influential work

To show how intertwined this literary community and history were: “Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia, started their married life here; the recreated heirloom vegetable garden was originally planted by Henry David Thoreau in honor of the Hawthornes’ wedding.”

This summer, you can take guided tours to learn more about the many people who lived and visited the Old Manse. 

 

Art Galleries and Museums

As an artist of any medium, you’ll be inspired by the works hanging throughout the art galleries and museums of the Merrimack Valley.

As a writer, you might be thinking, “well how will a painting break my writer’s block?” 

Sometimes the answer isn’t easy, but taking a break from a blank page is exactly what you need to find inspiration again. Also, writing exercises are a wonderful way to spark creativity. Have you heard of ekphrastic poetry? 

“An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.”

Travel through the valley and see all the art it has to offer. 

 

Concord Arts 

Concord Art Interior Photo of one of their galleries
Photo Credit: Concord Art

Concord art is “a place for contemporary art exhibitions, art education, relevant programming for everyone, and other adult art.”

With free admission to their four galleries, there are a number of events and exhibitions you can attend for free. 

Let the undercurrent bring back your creativity and stroll through the exhibition of UNDERCURRENTS: Water + Human Impact which will be showing until August 16th, 2022. 

Sign up for their newsletter to stay in the loop on any of their upcoming events. Along with exhibitions, reading series, and panels, Concord Art also hosts workshops to learn and hone new skills.

 

The Addison Gallery 

addison gallery interior picture of people viewing the artwork
Photo Credit: The Addison Gallery

The Addison Gallery located in Andover has a collection of American art spanning the 18th century to the present. With over 22,000 objects, there are bound to be a few art pieces that make you stop and stare. 

Their current collection on display until July 31, 2022, is called Past Is Prologue: History in Contemporary Art.

This stunning collection assembles artists to “mine the past, using American history and the history of the art of the western world to explore issues of gender, identity, memory, race, and truth.”

With numerous ways to stay connected with the Addison Gallery’s upcoming exhibitions and events, you’re sure to find yourself back again and again. 

New England Quilt Museum

Inside the New England Quilt Museum
Photo Credit: New England Quilt Museum

Depending on the medium you use to create your art. Whether pen, paintbrush, or sculpting knife there are thousands of ways to engage in art. One that many may not think of is the quilting needle. 

As their tagline suggests, the New England Quilt Museum is “often unexpected, always inspirational.”

Located in Lowell, MA, you’re sure to find each unique piece of quilted art to be inspirational. Have you ever seen a quilt that seems straight out of a pop-up book? Until July 16th, head to the New England Quilt Museum’s stunning display of three-dimensional works by Dominique Ehrmann. Or see their exhibits later this summer such as “Reflections of Light” by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry. 

While you might not be able to wrap yourself in a cozy quilt displayed across the walls, you can certainly wrap yourself in inspiration.

 

The Great Outdoors

Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien would go on long, leisurely walks almost every day? He would go through the lush green of Lancashire and find inspiration for the Lord of the Rings

While we aren’t in Lancashire, England or coming up with fantasy languages (or are we?) we can find similar gorgeous greenery and inspiration in the dips and valleys of the Greater Merrimack area. 

deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum

deCordova pond

Located in Lincoln, MA “the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is the largest park of its kind in New England.”

And it couldn’t be more true! This sprawling, 30-acre museum is a perfect hybrid for outdoor exploration and beautiful art. No matter where you turn, you’ll find art scattered throughout the stunning landscape. DeCordova offers indoor and outdoor activities, guided tours, yoga classes, and even a self-guided scavenger hunt!

Nashua River Rail Trail

The Nashua River Rail Trail

Walk or bike through the Nashua River Rail Trail. The former railroad stretches over 11 miles through the towns of Ayer, Groton, Pepperell, and Dunstable. You could plan a whole day on the trail. Between biking, fishing, hiking, and making stops along the way in each town. 

Walden Pond State Reservation

Walking around Walden Pond

This list wouldn’t be complete without the famous Walden Pond of Concord, MA. Henry David Thoreau lived in a small cabin in the forest of Walden Pond for two years and wrote all about it in his most famous work called Walden as well as A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

While Thoreau tried to escape the bustle of city life, we can certainly try to find that peace and quiet for ourselves too as we contemplate our artistic endeavors.

Conclusion

In times of a creative block, wandering through Merrimack Valley and the greater area can help you find a breakthrough. Bring your family, your friends, or just yourself and a sketchbook. Whether walking, driving, or taking a scenic trolley tour – you are sure to find inspiration for your creative works with a visit to the Merrimack Valley.

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