THE ART OF NOISE
By Asanti Green
STAMFORD - There aren’t a lot of clean surfaces in David Burt’s studio. But he doesn’t seem to mind, nor is he affected by the clanking of his hammer striking copper sculptures he creates there.
The sound, which echoes daily throughout the former Yale and Towne Manufacturring Co., doesn’t distract Sandy Alexander Garnett as he chisels details of his fingerprint totem pole sculpture, producing airborne wood dust that settles on his eye lashes and exposed body parts.
Bits of clay remain caked under Kevin Thomas’ fingernails even after he washes his hands, which are chafed from creating massive clay sculptures in his studio.
On any given day, art is brought to life at the building, which is home to nearly 60 artists. The 222-acre property boarded by Market, Henry, Canal and Pacific streets, provides a quiet respite from the business--as-usual community.
Other times, especially on the weekend, said Henry Jones, a digital photographer who rents space there, “With all the musicians in the building on Saturday night it sounds like a concert.” Some artists, he said, “make it sound like they’re rebuilding the place.”
“It’s nice to have other artists around but at the same time art is a private occupation so often I close myself in,” said Burt, father of the late Loft Artist Association founder James Jackson Burt.
Most often, artists find their homes in dilapidated old buildings because the rent is cheaper, said Thomas, who has rented space at the building since 1997. But for the artists who spend their working days in studios, the former lock factory means more.
“All artists get a connection to their studios,” Thomas said. “I don’t want any bad vibes here. It’s my sanctuary.”
The unique qualities of the building with exposed pipes, chipping paint and a self-operated elevator, is its lighting, architecture and camaraderie.
“The beauty of an old industrial building is that it is not gentrified or fixed up so it’s cheap,” said Garnett, who has rented a loft since 1994. “The big industrial windows offer the best north and south light and that’s very important to a painter.”
Built in the early 19th century, Yale & Towne left Stamford in 1959. The former lock factory, which employed as many as 6,500 people during World War I, also is the home to many antique shops, furniture wholesalers and a rock climbing company.
“The only thing I would change is to secure the status of the building,” Thomas said. “I would want to know I had 5 to 10 more years here.”