The bio of recently launched Instagram account @binghamton_eggs reads, “Encouraging art, culture, [people] and action, even if it kills me.” This level of dedication seems may seem like an exaggeration, but account administrator Thomas Eggleston, who has been steadfastly documenting the Triple Cities arts scene since April, is determined to post photos of every piece of public art in the area.
Eggleston, 24, grew up in Chenango Forks, approximately 10 miles northeast of Binghamton. In summer 2018, he started commuting to Binghamton to bus tables at newly opened Dos Rios Cantina. He said he’d grown up hearing Binghamton described as a “wasteland,” but these notions were challenged once he got to know the area.
“When I started working Downtown, I realized there was a lot of really neat things that people are just cynical about and don’t pay attention to,” he said.
Once Eggleston started commuting to Binghamton and spending more of his free time there, he began using Instagram to document unique snippets of the Triple Cities with his phone camera. His early snapshots captured a Bob Ross mural at the Oakdale Mall, a Sour Patch Kids toy peeking out from a window near The Printing House and a set of whimsical fish-shaped bike racks Downtown. Later posts featured everything from murals to cafes, sharing event information and profiles of community members. One follower, hailing all the way from Britain, messaged Eggleston to praise the account as a “gallery of the city.”
Eggleston said he finds his subjects simply by going on long walks, during which he daydreams and keeps an eye out for oddities.
“You find these wonderful things in these weird, vacant, obscure areas,” he said. “Binghamton is definitely a weird town — there are a lot of gems.”
One of his favorite discoveries is a mural of a cat swatting at a goldfish, which he stumbled upon while strolling down Clinton Street.
“It’s this beautiful mural and it’s just on this really weird abandoned building,” he said. “I find that really beautiful; it’s a diamond in the rough.”
Eggleston dabbles in stand-up comedy, and he usually pairs his photos with captions that range from humorous to heartfelt. One of his recent posts compared a sign with a rhyming slogan to a fictional shop from “The Simpsons”; and another mused, “Time is a good investment. The older you get the more valuable it becomes.” He said he prefers writing to performing stand-up because the former gives him a better opportunity to exact change.
“I like writing a lot more because what I’m producing can be of service to people,” he said. “The stand-up is fine, but I think it can be a little self-indulgent. It’s fun, but it’s just me on a stage making jokes, which is fine but it’s not really helping.”
The Open Art Collective, a student organization at Binghamton University, reached out to Eggleston after he commented on one of the group’s Instagram posts, and he said he hopes to be involved in a new magazine that’s in the works.
Whenever Eggleston notices a new follower, he usually sends a direct message to thank them, a habit that he said has sparked several new connections. He remembered a moment when he was debating whether to continue the account and was affirmed by interactions with people around town who recognized him.
“It’s really gratifying that I’m able to connect and have meaningful conversations based on my ambition to shed some positivity into the area,” he said.
He added the figures involved in Binghamton arts have proved especially inspiring, remembering a Broome County Arts Council poetry reading that particularly touched him.
“To hear people express their pain in such a beautiful way really speaks to the soul of this town,” he said. “A thing I’d like to do more is to show all the wonderful people in town and praise the human spirit, as cheesy as that sounds. I think people are really tough and really great in the face of challenge, and I think Binghamton has a lot of grit and character to it.”
Since deciding he wasn’t a perfect fit for the upbeat party scene at Dos Rios, Eggleston now works at Weis Markets, and still makes the 20-minute commute to Binghamton. Through @binghamton__eggs, he plans to expand his writing skills and enter the marketing field, using his following of more than 500 users as a selling point when pitching ideas to small businesses.
As local art blooms with the growth of events like LUMA, Porchfest and the Broome Art Trail, Eggleston said he hopes to eventually invest his money back into the scene, perhaps by opening a small business of his own.
“Working at Dos Rios, I was able to see a vacant building go from being vacant to being packed … and that put the idea in my head that change can happen,” he said. “I think now is an exciting time … I could be wrong, but I see no reason not to be optimistic.”
Eggleston, who insists that “the secret to success is empathy,” says he hopes the account encourages the personal growth of his followers as much as it has encouraged his own.
“I want some kid in Nebraska to see what I’m doing in my local community and say, ‘Maybe I should focus on my own community and be inspired and try to do my best to better my immediate surroundings,’” he said. “I think that’s the best anyone can do.”