What can I say about Meadville? I was a few months old when I moved here, and though I don’t believe my opinion was factored in at this point, it was a good place to grow up. It is where I learned to dance, where I climbed an irrational number of trees, where I played Sardines and made friends with wacky preschoolers who are still my best friends today. But up through senior year of high school, Meadville was just a written address and nothing more. I was far more impressed by the opportunities that came with life in a big city, brainwashed into believing that career success and money were the end goal, because that’s our system. I was ready to move away.
During and right after college, I kowtowed to the system. I didn’t care about dancing or climbing things or making friends. Instead, I locked myself in my room and worked tirelessly, stubbornly, determined to become what was expected of me. I was lonely, depressed, self-conscious, and didn’t think any of this mattered. While I made painfully slow progress in my career, admitting to myself that the perseverance was paying off, I was alone.
I had no community or support system because I myself had shut them out.
Brenna Thummler is a graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida
In the spring of 2017, I was living in Kansas City, Missouri, employed and spending every last second outside the office buried in work. Kansas City was full of those “big city” opportunities, but I was no longer chasing them. All I wanted was something that had been missing for years: that close bond of small town Pennsylvania. It is something I had never appreciated but now craved from afar. It had me sobbing at every episode of Gilmore Girls, because I just wanted to live in a place like Stars Hollow where everyone knew everyone and cared for the community with relentless passion. (Side note: we should definitely host the Festival of Living Art.)
Nightime Skyline of Kansas City
It was also the spring of 2017 that I decided to move back to Meadville. Best decision.
Live Sketch of the Catwalk on Chestnut Event
Used Courtesy of Brenna Thummler – Prints Available at BrennaThummler.com
Autumn Vogel, Heather Fish, and Lee Scandinaro were the first new friends I made upon my return. Never had I felt so inspired or energized by their devotion to growing this place I still call “home”. Over the past year, I have continued to struggle with this idea that my job is the most important thing, and have continued to push everything else away. But this wonderful, incredible community is right outside my window—a community that has changed so much since I left for college. Every week there is new excitement and a city-wide enthusiasm to hunt for more. Drawing at the Catwalk on Chestnut has proven my need to be part of this hunt.
I am in love with this town and the people who live here. No, we don’t have everything New York City has to offer, or Pittsburgh for that matter. But we have something much greater: residents who care with every fiber of their being and see the potential of this tiny world around us. My free time remains limited, but I have finally broken away from the system and recognize how much I need to be part of the Meadville crowd. Making new friends, helping local businesses grow, drawing live on the runway: this is what’s important.
My career may still be the most important thing, especially because I love what I do, and a life without graphic novels isn’t a life. (For example, my first original graphic novel Sheets, which is now available at Tattered Corners, online, and at bookstores near you! Pardon the advertising interlude.) Because of this, my availability is minimal, but that’s not going to stop me from getting involved. So please reach out to me if you need a hand (especially one that draws), because I finally know what makes a home, and I can’t wait to be a part of its growth.
Brenna Thummler – Author and Illustrator
Photo by Jason Sakal
About Brenna – Amazon.Com Brenna Thummler grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, where she developed a great love for nature trails, peanut butter, and, above all, drawing. A graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, she was named the Society of Illustrators Zankel Scholar during her junior year. Since graduation, she has done editorial and advertising work for such clients as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Razorfish, and Empathic Films LLC. Anne of Green Gables was her first graphic novel but not her last: her first original, Sheets, is out now. In those rare moments she’s not creating art, you might find her dancing, making music, baking cheesecakes, or spending time with kindred spirits.