CJ Hurley & Barbara Pierce

CJ and I are a husband and wife team who have moved our home and studio (fine art, design and preservation consultation) to Oil City. We are originally from the East Coast, CJ from New York’s Mid-Hudson River Valley, and I, from the Piedmont Region of North Carolina. After living in North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and New Hampshire for my former work in the apparel design business we moved to Portland, Oregon in 2001. CJ was already well established as a professional artist but it was the entrepreneurial spirit of Portland that gave us the confidence for me to leave the security of corporate work and join him to evolve and grow our business to what it is today. Although we liked living in Oregon, and established deep roots there with friends, colleagues, and clients, we came to realize that we would need to return to the east coast in order to have the quality time we wanted with family.

As we traveled to different cities and towns with our work, we began to imagine what sort of place we would like to live when we made the move. City life in Portland was great, but we also found ourselves yearning for something different — more rural, and more intimate. Having experienced both river and non-river towns, we knew that the presence of a river was essential. Access to a river, mountains, forests rife with wildlife rounded out the natural scene we’d imagined, but other requisites were a strong outdoor culture, a vibrant art scene, and a strong presence of the kind of historic architecture that brings so much character to a town. After living in larger cities, we were also looking for a safe and quiet community and a place that had all four clearly demarcated seasons. Our families live in the hot and humid flatlands of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina; places, which essentially have only two seasons — Summer and Winter. We are not well suited for southern summers so we focused our search for a new hometown to the northeast within reasonable driving distance to the south. The nature of our unique work can often make it difficult to earn a living. With this in mind, an essential quality we were seeking was affordability.

To round out our ideal locale, we also wanted a place that had a strong entrepreneurial spirit, willing and able to redefine itself. The microbreweries, independent organic farms, coffee roasters, restaurateurs, and custom handcrafted furniture businesses that dot western PA all pointed to this ethic.

We discovered Oil City after looking into other successful Artist Relocation Programs, and as soon as we saw pictures we thought it matched the town we had created in our minds! Of course we had to do our homework, but it didn’t take long for Oil City and the surrounding region to fit the bill. A days drive to our families is a little further than we would have liked, but we also needed a place that would meet requirements for the relocation of our business. Additionally, CJ is a Roycroft Renaissance Master Artisan and we loved the idea of being close to the Historic Roycroft Campus Arts & Crafts community located in East Aurora, NY.

Since our work is dedicated to both fine art and design & consultation for old homes, proximity to larger art and preservation markets in the region was important to us in our choice of a new town. We work with our clients to help them understand the history of their homes and decorate them in a meaningful way. Our projects range from small interior decorating jobs, hand-painted interiors, to full home restoration. Although the majority of our clients are in Oregon, we periodically work on projects elsewhere in the country. We already had a business model for working with clients remotely so this allowed us to make the move and maintain business. We are very interested in working with people locally and being able to contribute to the preservation of the wonderful vintage homes and buildings of Oil City and the greater Oil Region.

Since moving here in July of 2016, we have settled in nicely. We met quite a few people during our research and house hunting trips, and were warmly welcomed from the start. We have met friendly, likeminded people who have helped us with our transition and we are happy to call them friends.

On the Southside, we found a charming brick American Foursquare style home that we plan to restore. We have moved our business into studios in the National Transit Building. We’re excited to be working from Venango County and optimistic about the prospects of building a client base throughout Pennsylvania and its surrounding areas.

Although living in a smaller town doesn’t have all of the amenities found in larger cities, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do. We have enjoyed exploring local parks, trails and the surrounding countryside. We enjoy the local and regional antique shops, breweries, restaurants and coffee shops. We have made weekends out of visiting many of the regional farmers markets, and visiting local farms where we can buy humanely raised meat, produce, eggs, and honey directly from the farmers. Knowing the people who have raised your food is special; it’s more intimate that way. It’s an ethic we learned during our time in Oregon and has become very important in our lives.

We have been occupied making improvements on our house, working alongside great local contractors. And Oil City has made traveling to see our parents in North Carolina and friends in New York pretty easy. When time allows, we’re exploring other nearby towns and experiencing all this area has to offer—we find new gems every week!

We have lived a lot of different places in the US, and we truly think that Oil City and Western PA are special — rich with natural beauty, abounding with the amenities essential to good living. The region isn’t poisoned by pollutants, plagued by crime and unsafe schools & neighborhoods. Even little things like being able stand on our front walkway and view a sky full of stars is special here — light pollution being a huge problem in America’s big cities. We’re not blind to the issues here—every city and town has some. But we think it is important for people to see what is good and special about this area. In looking for a new place to live, we created an ideal place in our imaginations—a place with a river, mountains, good old architecture, an art community, good people, farmland nearby, affordable homes, and opportunity. We believe Oil City has these things. We are pleased to have found it and call it our home.