Kay Westhues

Fourteen places to eat

These photographs are the result of a 5-year project depicting rural culture in Indiana and the Midwest. This was inspired by my memories of growing up on a farm in Indiana, and observing, first hand, the shifting cultural identity that has occurred over time and through changing economic development. The project began when I moved back to the small town were I was raised, in order to help take care of my aging parents.

These images mirror my personal history, but I am also depicting a people’s history grounded in a sense of place. The overall theme since the project’s inception is the effect of the demise of local economies that have historically sustained rural communities. In this project I want to celebrate rural life, but I do not idealize it. Many of my images contain the remains of an earlier time when locally owned stores and family farms were the norm. Today, chain stores and agribusiness are prevalent in rural communities. These communities are struggling to thrive in the global economy, and my images reflect that reality.

One of my biggest complaints after moving to Walkerton was that there were not enough places to eat out. Imagine my surprise when I read a letter to the editor in the local paper against the new restaurant. The letter stated we already had enough places to eat in this town. The writer counted a total of fourteen places to eat, which included four restaurants, three gas stations, four bars, a truck stop, a convenience mart, and a bowling alley.