By Kaitlyn Krasselt
Published Wednesday, June 8, 2016
NORWALK — Tucked away on a side street off Route 7, the industrial building on Muller Avenue doesn’t look like much from the outside.
The ominous brick structure hasn’t changed in the decades since its days as a lace factory, and later, a manufacturing plant for electrical components called Firing Circuits, now the building’s namesake. It’s clear it was once abandoned, creating a refuge for wildlife among broken windows and dilapidated halls.
Inside though, the former factory has morphed into a creative haven for artists who’ve embraced the open spaces and natural light that pours in from leaden windows since repaired. Painted gallery white, the walls are covered in the works of Norwalk artists who’ve found artistic refuge in the space.
“When I come into this building I feel like I’m being embraced. It feels like home,” said painter Susan Leggitt, who’s rented studio space at Firing Circuits for five years.
Once an industrial hub, Norwalk’s abandoned factories have created ample opportunity for artists looking for creative spaces, and given rise to a growing community of artists looking to escape the inherent solitude of their craft.
“It’s such a solitary profession,” said Elisa Keogh, a seven-year Firing Circuits veteran. “It’s great to find a community of like minded people and to be in a building with them.”
Firing Circuits, the Wilson Avenue Loft Artists (WALA) and St. Philip's Artist Guild (SPAG) have all contributed to the growing arts scene in Norwalk by revitalizing abandoned buildings as studio space.
“I’m not sure what else this space could realistically be used for,” Keogh said.
Firing Circuits, created 12 years ago, is an informal collective that provides studio space to 32 area artists across all specialties. Rooms once used as administrative offices have been transformed, as has the open factory area, now divided with temporary walls to create gallery space, common areas and more individual studio space.
“We’re all individuals and when we want to do something together we just do it,” Keogh said. “We don’t have anything formal, and it’s probably best kept that way.”
Painter William Nelson said he spends every daylight hour in his studio at Firing Circuits where every visible surface is splattered with paint. Nelson previously had a studio in Harbor Point in Stamford, but when his one year agreement there ran out, he was in the market for a new space, leading him to Firing Circuits about two years ago.
Keogh recalled when Nelson first moved into the studio.
“He would walk through the halls and really loudly you could hear him saying, ‘I just need another opinion,’” Keogh laughed.
“Working in isolation is really hard,” Nelson said.
Located at the corner of Wilson and Ely Avenue in South Norwalk, the Wilson Avenue Loft Artists have taken on a similar mission to provide studio space in a once-abandoned factory. WALA opened about nine years ago in a former sail factory on Wilson Avenue. The building’s owner embraced the arts community and renovated the space to the specifications of WALA co-founders Lori Glavin and Britt Bair.
“We had the opportunity to start this and rent space to artists,” Glavin said. “Our goal was to provide reasonably priced studio space and create a community for artists that work together and show together. Though we’re all individuals, it’s very much a cooperative effort.”
Like the artists at Firing Circuits, the 16 WALA artists came to the abandoned factory for more than studio space.
“A lot of being an artist is being alone in a studio,” Bair said. “So it’s nice to be able to open the door and talk to like minded people down the hall.”
As activity in Stamford's South End booms, creativity blooms
Photos: Lindsay Perry
Saturday, November 23, 2013