In the fall of 2020, lovers of literature and local history will be able to experience the Brattleboro Words Trail — self-guided walking, biking, and driving tours exploring the peoples, places, and history of words in our region. The Words Trail will be available digitally, on mobile devices, as well as on beautifully rendered, physical maps.

“We wanted our maps to have a strong visual appeal and prioritized finding a local artist. Our goal was to find someone who could not only capture our vision, but really elevate it,” says Executive/Creative Director Jen Austin. “ We are thrilled that Cynthia Parker-Houghton has accepted this role! Cynthia understands the vision of not just the Words Trail, but the overall Words Project. Even more, her deep connections with the community, her experience with maps, and overall creative and artistic talents, make her a perfect fit”.

Cynthia Parker-Houghton, Brattleboro Words Trail’s map artist, at work at Natalie Blake Studios. Courtesy Cynthia Parker-Houghton.

Cynthia Parker-Houghton is a freelance designer, artist, muralist, quilter, costumer, and puppeteer. She is the lead designer for Natalie Blake Studios where she has designed and carved ceramic wall murals for public and private settings for over a decade. She recently shared her design skills and sensibility with Brattleboro in a public art installation for the Brooks Memorial Library and with large scale puppets and sculptures for the Strolling of the Heifers and for Sandglass Theater’s Puppets in Paradise. Her Etch-a-Sketch installation, water ballet troupe, and kinetic fish sculptures were shown at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. She is raising her son Morgen in Brattleboro with her husband Rolf Parker, a journalist/historian who also works on the Words Project, with whom she has collaborated on many treasure hunts, pumpkin floats and other shenanigans.

Cynthia will create hand-carved imagery reminiscent of historical printmaking processes for the Words Trail maps depicting landmarks, trails, and geographical features. Cynthia said of this collaboration, “I’m excited to be working on this project. I love how the Words Project is re-connecting Brattleboro to its history. Creating these maps will welcome people in. It’s like a time traveling portal”.

The maps Cynthia will design for the Words Project will include a walking tour of downtown Brattleboro, highlights of some of the local Indigenous historical and cultural sites, a biking tour option, as well as a driving tour. The Words Trail will include other towns such as Putney, Grafton, Townsend, as well as Hinsdale and Chesterfield, NH. The bike tour is being developed in collaboration with Dave Cohen of VBike, local trail coordinators, and the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing.

The Brattleboro Words Project is a multi-year collaboration of Marlboro College, Brattleboro Historical Society, Brattleboro Literary Festival, Write Action and Brooks Memorial Library backed by a National Endowment for the Humanities matching grant with support from The Windham Foundation, Edward Jones, Brattleboro Savings & Loan and other local businesses and individuals. The Project seeks public participation in research, writing and creating the ‘Brattleboro Words Trail’, audio linked to sites of interest in the history of words for walking, biking and driving tours of our area, a book on Brattleboro’s printing and publishing history, historic markers, and events, as part of the annual Brattleboro Literary Festival, and throughout the year. To Donate to the Project, or for more information, visit: www.brattleborowords.org.