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Updated: Feb 2, 2022

"I was a new empty-nester," shared Sonia Lopez. "My youngest had just gotten married, I am divorced, and I was planning to move to a new town in February of 2020." Sonia loved art as a child, but working full time as a nurse for 30 years and raising her children left no time for creating.

In early 2020, Sonia started visiting towns to look for a new home. Her goal was to find a place where she could start participating in the kind of things that brought her joy. "One of the first places I visited had a Clay Conference that year," she shared. "That same day, I took a flyer and I did a one-day workshop for clay at the Newberry Arts Center. I loved it. I fell in love."

That day, Sonia told herself, "I am going to live here and this is going to be my little nook, the place I am going to go. This is going to be my way to insert myself into this little town and make it my home." The welcoming group of people at the Newberry Arts Center helped Sonia make the decision to move to Newberry in February of 2020. "As soon as I walked into the Center I was welcomed. I grew up in Boston and people don't just speak to each other there. I never even knew my neighbors. You just don't say hi," she shared. "But here, everyone says hello, even if they don't know you. At first, it was unsettling, but then I started to like it."

Sonia acknowledges that being new and Hispanic in a small town where the population is a majority white was unsettling. She didn't want to let that stop her from getting involved in her new community, and her worries were answered with welcome. The people she met were kind and helpful. Her first experience at the Newberry Arts Center set the tone and changed the expectation for how she might make this new little town her home. "Almost as soon as I came, I offered to volunteer at the Arts Center, and even though the pandemic closed things down, I still had a place I could go. The Arts Center helped me get through the pandemic. I was able to do some limited things that helped me make friends and build community. I don't know if I could have gone through this move or been in this town without the Arts Center. It really helped me make Newberry my new home." Today, Sonia is the newest member of the Board of CREATE Newberry. CREATE Newberry is being organized to help raise the financial resources necessary to provide strong art programming to children and adults taking classes at the Newberry Arts Center. Our efforts with CREATE Newberry will serve to ensure that the Arts Center is fully funded by diversifying our revenue streams, so that together, we can continue to welcome all those to the Arts Center, who call Newberry home . Our shared vision is that they learn and grow their skills, their appreciation for the arts, and their community, just like Sonia.

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