The ARTFactory was bustling with activity on a recent October afternoon. Lights, video cameras, cables, and drop-cloths filled the courtyard at the entrance to the post-industrial compound, as a crew prepared to record a television series.
A century ago, the activity might have looked quite different. The courtyard was then part of the Dolphin Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1844 and converted jute and hemp into rope, twine, and carpet backing. It encompassed 17 buildings and was one of the city's largest mills. The 77-foot Great Falls of the Passaic River powered the factory.
A little more than two centuries ago Alexander Hamilton himself might have trod the same grounds, as it was he who formed the investment group, Society of Useful Manufactures, in 1792. The society used its funds to establish a planned industrial city, as Hamilton believed the United States should reduce its dependence on foreign goods.
Just last week, a small group that included two residents of Paterson, the Open Space Coordinator for Passaic County, and a resident of Reading, Pennsylvania gathered at the post-industrial-compound-turned-art-center to brainstorm the possibilities for activating the space and serving the surrounding community. It was an academic exercise intended to challenge attendees to explore creative placemaking strategies using a real-world example.
Though some buildings and spaces on the compound were alive with activity, others were vacant, with exposed brick walls, cables, and a chill in the air. Participants called out ideas for programing the enormous rooms. Wreath-making workshops, holiday bazaars, even ice skating could happen in winter. Spring could bring sunrise yoga, painting, hiking, and a healing garden. Salsa bands could serenade the courtyard on summer nights, and Halloween-themed storytelling events could activate the grounds in autumn.
Workshop participants also discussed who should be included and served in creative placemaking collaborations and the community needs that might be addressed. Creative programing could further the goals of social and environmental justice, local workforce development in the art of historic and architectural preservation, placekeeping, wellness, and quality of life.
For more detailed information, please stay posted to our website, as we will publish a full report on the outcome of the lab. To learn about upcoming educational workshops, please browse our online catalogue.