Island artist duo Danielle Mulcahy and Walker Roman hit the road at the beginning of October, armed with a renovated fifth-wheel trailer, all of their possessions, and art-making materials. Their goal is to make art, sell art at different venues and pop-ups, educate about art making, and live more simply, responsibly, and in the present. See more at barnyardsaintsart.com. They last wrote on Jan. 31 from Norwalk, Conn., where they encountered car trouble, after having just left Martha’s Vineyard.
After our breakdown, we had some major decisions to make. Selling art at fairs had proven disappointing, living and business costs had been higher than expected, and we had missed a major show in Florida. While grounded with family in central Massachusetts, we left our truck in the capable hands of Mikey, a family friend who owned three Chevy pickups like ours, who had done all their maintenance himself. After three days and about $400, Mikey had done what a garage in Connecticut said would take two weeks and four grand. Our butts had been saved.
The solution to our cost of living issues was to scrap the entire East Coast and head for Texas, where we knew plenty of folks with plenty of space for a trailer. After a week of route-mapping and reworking our plan, we set out for the Lone Star State on Jan. 27 with a road-ready tow vehicle. The new strategy was to move the trailer as little as possible, spend as little as possible, and focus on online income. The month of February would start in Georgetown, Texas, an hour north of Austin. Following would be another two weeks at Habitable Spaces, a sustainable farm and artists’ residency an hour to the south. Another critical component would be three months volunteering in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park, followed by three more months at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. Both locations provide a campsite and plenty of free time for art practice. Equipped with a cohesive and more stationary itinerary, we departed Massachusetts.
Four days of driving had us overnighting in rest areas and Walmart parking lots until we came to Hot Springs, Ark. Though disappointed there was no public bathing in the springs, we did tour a grand old bathhouse, and learned about all the geological weirdness that put a hot spring hundreds of miles from any volcanic activity. It was also the first warm night we had, having brought the cold New England air and even some snow with us all the way into Tennessee.
The next day we drove to the driveway of a dear friend in
Georgetown, Texas, a rural area built around a large retirement community. In the red state of Texas, Austin and its surrounding areas are a liberal haven, full of people and groups who rally around the causes their state ignores. Barbara and George, our hosts, volunteer at food pantries, organize afterschool programs for children of single parents, and make care packages for families transitioning out of homelessness. Their daughter Mary, an actress and model who has been featured in Danielle’s “Seed Series” films, makes daily calls to the House and Senate. At events in Austin, we met others who marched for LGBTQ rights, disrupted Immigration and Customs Enforcement checkpoints, or raised funds for women seeking abortion services.
We spent the next two weeks day-tripping into Austin, exploring its eclectic mix of food trucks, music venues, and secondhand stores, and eating every kind of taco we could find. We met writers, physicists, theater directors, playwrights, and hackers; attended story slams, puppet shows; visited a fish gallery; and learned how to two-step. Austin lived up to its reputation of weirdness, wonderful people, and being alive with performances. The whole visit left our bellies full and grins on our faces.
Looking back, the first night of warm air in Hot Springs marked a change for both Danielle and me. It was the air our trailer was made for: It meant places we’d never been, people we’d never met, and entering into the heart of an adventure with no end in sight.