Catskills Conversations: Margaret D. Helthaler


© Chris Helthaler

Margaret D. Helthaler is a graphic designer and fine art photographer living in the Catskills. She is taking the Daily Catskills images for Upstate Dispatch for the next three days.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

I was born and raised here. I grew up in an old farmhouse built by my great-great grandfather along the Rondout Creek in an area formerly known as Eureka. The town of Eureka ceased to exist when NYC built the Rondout reservoir. The property is now located in Grahamsville. My older sister raised her children there (the 6th generation of our family to live in the house) and my husband and I were married in the garden where my grandmother once tended her vegetables. Sadly, the property was sold about five years ago, but our memories remain.

What made you move here?

I lived in the Hudson Valley and Vermont after graduating high school. I returned to the Catskills ten years later because I wanted to raise my son near family.

What do you do for work?

When my children were young, I worked as a freelance graphic designer and as an adjunct design instructor for the local SUNY colleges (Sullivan, Ulster and New Paltz). I provided print design services for land stewardship organizations like the Watershed Agricultural Council, The Catskill Watershed Corporation, The Catskill Landowner’s Association, The Neversink Landowner’s Association, etc. Several years ago I shifted my focus to teaching full-time. I am currently an assistant online program director for the graphic design program at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh-Online Division. I work remotely from my home office and travel to Pittsburgh less than once a year. In addition to my career in design education, I am also a fine art photographer and a whole food plant-based nutrition advocate. My landscape/nature photography can be viewed on my website and my food blog is

Is there such a thing as a day off in country life?

My grandmother always claimed Sunday was a day of rest. She kept a garden well into her eighties and worked hard all her life, but she spent her Sundays reading and doing crossword puzzles. I try to follow her example. My husband and I enjoy sitting in our sunroom on Sunday mornings – sipping tea and reading a real honest to goodness Sunday paper – including the comics! I think it’s important to unplug and decompress.

I’m asking this question of everybody lately: what is work?

I believe work is about being productive – at what, should depend on your innate talents and interests. I’ve walked away from good paying jobs more than once – because they weren’t the right fit for me. It was never an easy decision, but it always led to better circumstances. I’ve encouraged my son to follow his heart as well. He’s in his second year of studying cinematography at Ithaca College. I’m sure he has a lot of challenges ahead of him, but I truly believe he will be successful because of the passion he has for the subject. I would never want him to pick a career just to pay the bills…

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