Nature-Inspired Artists Defend Their Land
By Nolen Nychay
In a hollow of Marble Valley, Va., surrounded by a sprawling forest of old hardwoods and conifers, the Clanton farmhouse sits proudly on a small acreage of open meadow. For over 12 years, Shay and Kim Clanton have lived here simply and sustainably, treasuring every inch of the 40 acres of natural prairie and woodland they own in the shade of Shenandoah Mountain.
Shay, originally from northern Alabama, is a professional artist and art teacher at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va. Her husband Kim, from the piedmont of North Carolina, is also an artist at heart, working as a glassblower and landscaper.
The couple lived on Hatteras Island, N.C., for 10 years before moving to the Appalachians. During that time they became deeply involved in saving a maritime forest at risk of being destroyed for the construction of a golf course. For nearly six years, Shay and Kim advocated for protecting the unique marine ecosystem until victory arrived in the form of a federally established coastal reserve at Buxston Woods.
“Your home is more than the building you live in,” Shay says. “A home includes the surrounding land and the community of people you share it with.”
When the Clantons became aware of mountaintop removal near their new Virginia homestead, in neighboring Wise County, they discovered Appalachian Voices through their online research on the matter. Since their home is alongside a trout-filled stream, fed by natural aquifers and meltwater that flows down from the mountaintops, what they read about stream contamination and ecosystem destruction inspired them to pursue supporting Appalachian Voices any way they could.
For nearly 10 years the couple has been distributing issues of The Appalachian Voice in the nearby metropolitan area of Staunton. Filling the newsstands at coffee shops, bakeries, local vendors and the public library, Shay and Kim have been incredibly helpful in spreading local environmental news to their friends and neighbors.
Living on the outskirts of George Washington National Forest, the Clantons also work with Wild Virginia, a grassroots non-profit dedicated to protecting Virginia ecosystems. Shay and Kim are currently involved in the ongoing crusade against intrusive logging in their area. Using the Forest Service’s public appeal system to protest clear-cut logging that happens on federal public lands, the Clantons remain dedicated to protecting the natural lands they call home.
“We love where we live — the trees, the animals, the quiet peace and fresh air of the valley,” Shay says. “We’ve developed such a close relationship with these lands that inaction was not even a question when threats to the surrounding mountains and forests emerged.”
Whether it be tending to their garden of fruits and vegetables, gathering Appalachian flora for holistic home remedies, or simply admiring the beauty of the mountainscape, Shay and Kim have found true tranquility in their valley.