The votes are in, and the Experienced Dreamers contest has a winner:  Tess Lojacono, an author, artist and teacher from East Aurora, N.Y., about 20 miles southeast of Buffalo.

Courtesy of Tess A. Lojocono.

The Experienced Dreamers contest was launched last fall by several local foundations to encourage people 45 and older to imagine a once-in-a-lifetime chance to live their dreams in one of America’s most livable cities, awarding $100,000 to one winner to relocate to Pittsburgh and pursue their passions. The contest asked people spanning the nation to consider Pittsburgh as they embark on the next chapter of their lives, resulting in entries from 29 states and the District of Columbia. After the judges narrowed the submissions down to five finalists, the program was turned to the public this month through an online vote to determine the winner.

Moving to Pittsburgh will be a homecoming of sorts for Lojacono, who received her bachelor’s in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University. She is now the owner of “Fine Arts Miracles,” an independent business in East Aurora, NY that offers fine arts workshops to residents at nursing homes and assisted living centers. Throughout her career, however, she has helped people of all ages express themselves creatively, working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pittsburgh, Buffalo Public Schools, and Amherst Adult Day Services. She is also the author of a novel, Milagros, published in 2011 by Laughing Cactus Press.

With her winnings, she will relocate to Pittsburgh and expand her business, employing staff as teachers and creating a model of training and art class instruction can be replicated for a similar audience throughout the country. As Lojacono noted, “Between the quality of life, the vibrancy and the demographics of the region, it’s a perfect for me, for my family, and for my business to thrive.” Aptly said, as Pittsburgh has the strongest small-business sector in the Eastern United States. Congratulations to Tess Lojacono, and to all the experienced dreamers that call, or will soon call, Pittsburgh home!

Read more about the announcement here.