On any given day a gamut of artistic activities can be observed inside the retrofitted former mill building on Spruce Street called the Art Factory. Within the Great Falls Historic District the 400,000 square feet factory is becoming the axle for the city’s creative renewal.
“Anything you want to build, you can do it here,” Bill Kaetz, a cabinet maker, said. Kaetz has a studio at the factory which with its large conglomeration of artists has just about every tool a carpenter requires to exercise his trade.
“They’ve got machine blades, vertical milling machines, grinders — it’s a regular hive of industry,” Scott Usher told the New Jersey Arts News, a non-profit that produces short videos showcasing the transformative power of the arts and the humanities. Usher also has a studio at the factory.
It’s not just a place for industrial artists and artisan carpenters, but also for painters, sculptors, and a profusion of other artistic types.
The factory contains ample space to easily accommodate industrial art, film production, gallery exhibition, and just about every other artistic toil.
Earlier in the year the factory also hosted the largest artistic event in North Jersey called the Paterson Artwalk. In June the factory hosted 700 exhibits viewed by approximately 10,000 visitors from the Garden State and beyond.
Largest of the city’s former mill buildings, the factory is also unique for being among the small number that have been re-purposed and given new life.
“They are so solid they can last for another 100 years,” Matt Gosser, adjunct professor of architectural design at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), said. Gosser also has a studio at the factory.
Gosser said it makes sense for older cities like Paterson to re-utilize the sturdy building left behind from their industrial past. In a survey of 30 mill buildings conducted by the city in 2012, outside of the historic district, eight such solid buildings were found to be vacant.
“It’s about looking at the history and figuring out how to do something new and creative in it,” Gosser said.