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Nancy Coffelt – Baker City

When something like this happens, you have to consider the silver linings and, for me, it’s given me a chance to redefine myself.

Nancy Coffelt
Pet portrait commissions

“I spent a few decades doing art and writing residencies, author visits in schools all across the state. I started in 1995 and went through the beginning of 2018. In 2018, I got hit by a truck as I was bending into my car and ended up having to take a break due to suffering a brain injury. I’m still figuring out life after that. My brain is my identity, as it is for most people, and so I just had to change how I approach things. For instance, I don’t process things the same, it’s different, not bad though. Brain injuries are interesting because they are often invisible. Some people would say, ‘Well you look fine!’ And I would say, ‘Great, I’m glad you think so!’

When something like this happens, you have to consider the silver linings and, for me, it’s given me a chance to redefine myself. Taking control of a situation and redefining myself on my own terms. That included figuring out a path forward rather than backwards. I have a wonderful husband, my relationships with family and friends are huge for me. I also find meaning in the outdoors—I can see the Elkhorns from my kitchen window and take in views of Baker County most often on my bike. But I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t an artist and a writer. Art is what I do all the time. If you look around my studio, I think I’ve done over 300 paintings in the last 3 years. I started painting for my rehabilitation and I went from not ever really painting to suddenly exploding into painting and that has been wonderful for me. Previously, my illustrations were oil pastels and drawings, and now I’m painting the illustrations for my next picture book. Art is just the most wonderful way to express and use yourself, it doesn’t even have to be good, it just has to be you.

My husband and I came here in 2012 and I do want to say how much I love this place. I’m a native Oregonian, I love Oregon and I always thought growing up I was just strictly a Willamette Valley girl. To come here and find out that this is as much my home as the Valley ever was, is very special. The people are amazing, the outdoors are amazing, the town is amazing. I really want to stress how welcoming and wonderful this place is and how much my husband and I love it here.”

What does it mean to be a good neighbor?

“I think it’s to present yourself in a way that doesn’t impinge on other people’s daily lives. I also think it’s a way to make yourself available if a neighbor needs help, like you know with their yard or house, or just to be a friendly human being. But also respect that everybody has their own deal.”