While parts of residential Holyoke look like a ghetto, the old mill area just below the town centre is a gem that with recutting, could turn into a real sparkler. At the moment I’d class it as ‘gritty’, enabling me to wear my fifteen-dollar Dick Tracy felt hat from the women’s headwear section of Target and cut a swathe of coolness through the joint. Dames, look out…
The canal area’s grittiness is also part of its post-industrial charm. Many of the red-brick mill buildings that lined the canals are still standing, but empty, and while they’ll need serious makeovers to bring them back to life, that’s what some are already receiving.
My landlord Dean Nimmer has his studio in one of them, renamed PCS80 – short for Paper City Studios, 80 Race Street. (Holyoke used to be called Paper City, on account of its many mills). Over a period of years, owners Bruce Fowler and Nancy Sachs, both artists themselves, have restored the building – previously a liquor merchant’s warehouse – and converted it into gallery and studio spaces. For those who know Hobart, it’s very similar to the Long Gallery in Salamanca Place. As soon as Dean took me in there, it was “Yes! I want to be here!!” And by sheer good fortune, one of the studios was about to become available.
I’ve moved in and am as happy as a pig in the proverbial poo. I’ve got two rooms, one of which has a concrete floor, and a sink, and it has big old windows that look out across the canal and let in a great light. It feels like a proper studio, so I feel like a proper artist in it. Which is more than I can say about the studios at UMass, because a) they’re about a tenth the space I’ve got, and b) you’re not allowed to bang things up on the walls, and c) I don’t actually have one anyway, through some bureaucratic oversight/Machiavellian plan/embarrassing riches of sheer stupidity.
So, how lucky can one get?