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Art, Creativity, and Small Towns

“Home Cooking” by Anna Macedo

Anna Macedo is an artist and graphic designer who works out of her home studio on the square in Woodville, Mississippi. I love her collage work, and stopped by the other day when I was in Woodville with my mom and my kids to see what Anna had in her studio. She had “Home Cooking” on the wall, and a few other things I was tempted to buy, but decided to wait until Julie got home from her trip, so she could see Anna’s stuff as well. Her collages have a dreamlike quality that I find entrancing.

Anna lives and works in the Woodville Lofts, a stunning renovation of an old hotel on Woodville’s town square. The hotel was purchased by James Derbes and Jan Katz, a New Orleans couple displaced by Katrina. As Country Roads magazine reported, they’ve been doing renovation and historical preservation, and are turning it into a combination of condos, galleries, studios, offices, and even a cafe. It’s an amazing project. Woodville is a lovely town, but one that has seen much better days. It’s ripe for rebirth. Anna used to live in Baton Rouge, but the crime and the problems with city life wore her out. She’s got a great place in Woodville Lofts. The town square is quiet, and the atmosphere is very, very Southern. As a Mississippi preservationist blogger writes:

Mostly, though, the town suggests that time has stopped somewhere in the 1960s. There is little to suggest the march of progress here, and that’s what makes it a real find.

It really is. If a small scene develops around the cafe they’re working on now — and the chef is very, very good — I can easily see working artists and others relocating to Woodville, where it’s cheap to live, and you can get work done. After talking with Anna Macedo and Jan Katz the other day, I recalled Walker Percy’s prophecy in his wonderful nonfiction book “Lost in the Cosmos”:

I predict that working artists and writers will revert to the vacated places. In fact, they’re already turning up in ordinary houses on ordinary streets long since abandoned by the Hemingways and Agees. …What else? Where would you rather be if you were James Agee now and alive and well: stumbling around Greenwich Village boozed to the gills, or sitting on the front porch of a house on a summer evening in Knoxville?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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