Americans are not great at repurposing. As consumerism became the engine that drives the economy, the old adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do” lost its application in everyday life.
There are notable examples of reuse and rebirth in the region, however, and large among these is Whiting Mills in Winsted. Once a men’s hosiery maker, the 19th-century brick manufactory was given new life a dozen years ago by Jean Paul and Eva Blachere and has become a Mecca for master artists, artisans and entrepreneurs.
Located at 100 White Street, the 135,000-square-foot complex factory consists of two red brick industrial buildings and a stone building on Whiting Street. It is now occupied by 52 artists, craftspeople, photographers and entrepreneurs, ranging from renowned dance group Momix to a kitchen remodeling firm. It is also to be the future home of the nationally acclaimed American Mural Project.
This regeneration came to the attention of Yankee Magazine this year, which named the Mills the 2016 Best Artist Community in New England.
The Mills retain some of the ambiance of the past—sunlight streams through 6-over-6 windows, spilling onto polished floors that still retain the scars of past industrial use. But gone are the noise, smells and grunge of an Early American factory, replaced by a serene setting that nourishes creative work. Instead of woolen socks, the 52 current tenants produce the stylish wares beloved of 21st-century purchasers.
In the past the tenants have opened their doors to the public twice a year—Open Studio events that attracted thousands of visitors. Now, the artist colony expanded this concept, opening the studios on a regular basis—on the third Sunday of each month—to introduce visitors to their works. With demonstrations and special events, an Open Studio is planned for June 11-12, from 11AM- 5PM.