On Saturday June 23, we had the honor of taking part in the Catskill Mountains Book Festival at Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in Mt. Tremper. Although the weather was rather dreary—cold , grey with occasional rain—there was a steady stream of visitors, many from outside of the Catskills. The festival was full of creative performances and activities provided by artists and vendors from near and far.

This kicked off our season of events with Portraits and Stories, a series of five sessions of portrait cutting by Jenny Lee Fowler. Jenny uses two layers of paper to cut out profile portraits of visitors, with one layer going to the sitter and another for her to use as a template for larger, a more complex body of work.

Before or after the portrait is done, the sitters are invited to share on mic their stories of living or visiting this land. The recordings are archived in our library, with a selection used in our podcast.

The people whose stories and profiles were documented at this event ranged from a 94-year-old forest biologist to a Kingston family who nurture a bicultural  sensibility aided by the accessible natural environment.

Some takeaways: one of the most common phrases we heard was I fell in love with this place; resentment is a long-lasting, powerful emotion in shaping place-based identity; living in a place so rich in its beauty and soul-cleansing quality frees us from the pressure to make money.

Look out for our podcast (coming soon!) in which we’ll reveal these conversations. In the meantime, check out our photos from the event on our Facebook Page.

Portraits and Stories is made possible in part with funds from Rondout Neversink Stream Program, a project of Sullivan County Soil & Water Conservation District funded by New York City Department of Environmental Protection.