Matt Carpenter: building bridges

Posted 11/6/19

NARROWSBURG, NY — It seems that Matt Carpenter is in the news a lot lately. As recently as April of this year, a New York Times article written by Sara Clemence ( details …

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Matt Carpenter: building bridges


NARROWSBURG, NY — It seems that Matt Carpenter is in the news a lot lately. As recently as April of this year, a New York Times article written by Sara Clemence details the saga of Matt, his wife Katie and a small band of friends slowly migrating from the hustle and bustle of city life to a more peaceful existence here in the country. Since that journey began for Matt and Katie in 2015 and they now live here permanently, I decided to check in on Carpenter and see how their full-time life in the country is working out.

“It really began as a growing need to be part of a community again,” Carpenter said when I sat down with him last week at the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA). Carpenter now serves as DVAA’s programming director, presiding over all things performing arts. “It’s not that I wasn’t a part of a community in the city,” he is quick to explain, “but just existing in that environment is exhausting, whereas here…” he says with a sweep of his arm, referring to Narrowsburg and the region itself. “You can breathe. A lot of people in my age group (mid-thirties) are leaving big cities in search of something larger and more meaningful—a sense of belonging.

“This is happening in the arts as well,” Carpenter explained, bridging the gap between the two subjects at hand. “A sense of inaccessibility has taken over. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, including a lot of great [theatrical] stuff happening in Brooklyn, but much of the heart and connection to the audience has been swallowed up by the ‘big business’ of entertainment. Not only on Broadway, but in smaller venues as well.”

Carpenters’ Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree was “performance based,” and he still flexes his acting muscles with a local sketch comedy group. “There are so many talented people right here,” he enthused, “and we began to spend more and more time in the country, even though I was still involved with large corporate entities in New York City. Eventually, Katie and I realized that it was time to take the plunge, cut some ties, sell our apartment, and commit to full-time life in the country, anxious to really find our place here, where we were welcomed with open arms.

“I wasn’t finding what I was looking for in the city—even when it came to the arts—but up here I discovered an audience that wants an experience and is intently listening. We can relax, take a breath of fresh air and simply listen, not being overwhelmed by everything that city life brings with it. It became about what feeds your soul,” Carpenter said, “and it always comes back to community.” Discovering Karen Morris’s "Poetry First Sunday” was just the beginning for Matt and his newfound band of like-minded individuals, but Carpenter was looking for more. “Living here helps one to focus,” he said. “Meditating on the bigger picture is difficult against the backdrop of city life, but now that we’re here full time, more and more opportunities become clear.

“Did you know,” Matt asked enthusiastically, “that the fire department was once housed in the same building that is now the Tusten Theatre?” Shaking my head, he continued. “After that it was a community hall, a movie house and, now, it’s the beautiful Tusten Theatre. And the volunteer fire department is right across the street.” He said with a sly smile. “And that got me to thinking.”

Noting that there is always a need for more volunteers, and that several of his friends and neighbors were involved with the Narrowsburg Volunteer Fire Department, Carpenter decided to sign up. “You might not think of these two worlds being involved with each other” Matt said, referring to the theater and volunteer firefighters, “but you’d be wrong. Both worlds are community-oriented. The fire department plays a huge part in the same community as the DVAA. We should have a fundraiser to benefit them,” he said in an impromptu brainstorming moment. “And a few of the firefighters have already expressed interest in helping us out, building sets and helping with lighting. We have more in common than meets the eye.”

“In my mind,” Carpenter added “it was natural to think about bridging the gap that is, in reality, comprised of folks who all share a common ground. Choosing to live here in [in the Upper Delaware River region] makes us the same on so many levels. I was born in Tulsa, OK, and it was natural to live and work amongst all sorts of folks. It’s how I was raised, and it’s how I choose to live now.”

As to how Carpenter plans to convince “old school” to meet a new generation of entertainment? “I’m not looking to convince anyone of anything,” he said. “The diverse programming that we’re presenting at the Tusten [and the DVAA’s Krause Recital Hall] provides something for everyone, just as it should be.” Looks like Matt Carpenter has been building bridges all along.

Click here for more information on the DVAA,  and to become involved with the Narrowsburg Volunteer Fire Department, like them on Facebook or call 845/252-3328.


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