My name is Katie Butler and I am a Bryanite. Kind of.
"Diaperheads" Circa 1990
I was born in Williams County in July of 1988. My family had a house on County Road 13. I took my first steps there, said my first words and ate mud in the backyard. My older brother broke his hand in our driveway. My mother worked in Montpelier and my father worked in the center of town.
And then we moved to Texas in 1991 and I never came back.
Thirty years later, I am a theatre maker in Philadelphia, fascinated with the idea that you can be connected to a place that you don't remember. I decided to explore. I wanted to find the house we lived in, the business my dad worked for, anything that would connect me to the town my family once called home.
I didn't find what I was looking for. The house had long been torn down--the address doesn't even exist. The business my dad worked for was bought out years ago. No friends to remember us, no landmarks that would indicate we were ever really there. I was no longer connected to Bryan.
What I did find was the Bryan High School Theatre department willing to indulge me in giving a workshop and interviewing the troupe; admittedly a side-trek to my original path. I found a warm welcome, a passionate energy, and new ties to this place were instantly forged. I realized this exploration isn't about unearthing old connections, but creating new ones. I have no shared past with the town, but now we share a future.
The house that is no more.
Dad, circa 1989
I can't tell the story for the people of Bryan, or portend the future of the Fountain City. But I can help the people that call this city home open up a dialogue about art, commerce and where Bryan is headed. Rather than put my slant on what I gleaned from Bryan in a few days, I asked the people that live there what they think they need; we are using this project as a platform for people to become active participants in the future of their town.
What I'm learning is that the industrial economy that Bryan has relied on for so long is no longer serving them. We are increasingly a world reliant on technology and less reliant on manufacturing. So where does that leave a rural town with limited resources? How can a small town thrive?
I posit that artists are the answer.