Friday, June 29, 2012

Valley Arts and more

About 8 years ago a non-profit group, HANDS, spearheaded the revitalization of a 15 square block area that straddles the towns of Orange and West Orange.  A former manufacturing hotbed of hat factories (34 of them) including Stetson and the No Name Hat company, among others -- the neighborhood is full of abandoned structures waiting to be brought back to life.

We all know how artists revitalize an area and we are seeing that happen here.  The Hat Factory will be (eventually) turned into live/work for artists and market rate condos that will subsidize the artists' spaces.  There are some galleries and restaurants among the empty lots; HANDS, Inc. owns Hat City Kitchen, which has excellent food, a bar, and jazz/blues and other assorted music.  All of the profits go back into Valley Arts district.

The Wordless Wednesday no parking sign I posted was across the street from a vintage firehouse, which will soon be artists' live/work lofts. These people are having a tour of the construction.
Around the corner, more of the same will be coming by the end of the year.  The district is full of vibrant murals painted by resident artists.  This one was a group activity earlier this month, sponsored by HANDS, Inc./Valley Arts. So cool!
This is the backyard of Arts Unbound, which will become a courtyard that will connect to the lofts being built next door.
 I hope these murals will remain. They are wonderful!
                                          I love that someone painted a cresecnt moon on the shed:-)
 To the right of the mural and presumed modcon, real progress. We trespassed last weekend and climbed the stairs to look at the view from the second floor.

 No, I am not planning to sell my condo up the hill to rent a space here, but it's exciting to see the energy already bringing the district to life.  One of the goals of the public-private partnership developing the area is to keep it from being over-gentrified. The idea is to add artists and arts to the current energy and diversity of the area, not to chase away the current residents with overdevelopment and greedy landlords.  Let's hope!


Linda Dunn said...

Rayna, this is so exciting. Anyone involved might look into what's happening at Western Aven Studios at Lowell. What started as one floor of artist's studios, with industry below, has turned into 5+ floors of artists, with a new wing opening this summer. Plus the live-work loft spaces finally opened this month. I believe that paperwork as well as good intentions supports the long-term goal of keepinging it artist-run space - that's the really dicey part, as we all know. But right now, it's a big success.

tiedyejudy said...

Great way to bring new life to older areas rather than tear the structures down!

Rayna said...

I know, Linda. I remember when Western Ave. started and now it is amazing! Lowell did a lot of things right.

Karoda (nickname) said...

A few weeks ago I looked into a new development for live/work space for artists and if I wanted just studio space I could double what I have now for the same amount...but it is still so raw right now and I'm at a point in my life I need a certain amount of comfort. :) But I do hope Louisville catches this idea with as much gusto as the places you've reference.

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