If there is one thing the Ocean State knows, the best anchors are forged in steel and so it is that this community’s anchor is metal as well.
The Steel Yard is located in Providence Rhode Island. Better still, name-check their neighborhood, Olneyville; the area has done such a thorough job of creating and defining its own identity seems like an insult not to. The aptly-named non-profit arts center was founded in 2001 by Nick Bauta and Clay Rockefeller with the purpose of creating a local workshop for area artisans to have a place to work and share their knowledge with like-minded art machinists. Nailed it.
This is where artists, students, teachers, neighbors, movers and shakers come to heat things up, bend bars and sit down at them. It’s a campus for the industrial arts; forging, blacksmithing, metalwork, and ceramics. ‘Yardie’ Mandara MacKinnon, the communications and volunteer coordinator, explains the interior space is “broken into three sections” for each discipline, but it’s essentially one continuous workshop. Those who rent here enjoy “working in a community shop, there’s an artists residency program, and anyone who’s taken classes can rent studio time” in addition to thrice weekly open studio time. It’s a place where people work together; they’re making their own art, they’re working collaboratively on public projects, they’re hired to make various architectural details, they make the coolest bike hitches, and then they teach you how to as well.
All of this would be enough for this award-winning community center to hang it’s hat on, but they go one more. The building itself sits on nearly four acres of what was originally a severely busted up brownfield but is now one of the most popular event spaces around. 2016 was their most booked year yet and they’re already filling up 2017. Designed by the Klopfer Martin Design Group, out of Boston, the space is multi-level, creating unique and natural seating areas, there’s a vertical structure of crossed I-beams and accessible pathways throughout for pedestrians. It is somehow remarkably cozy and intimate for such a large area full of industrial remnants and distressed metal objects.
The Steel Yard will be utilizing their campus this October for their 11th Annual Halloween Iron Pour on October 22nd. This theatric display of the industrial arts attracts a huge crowd. Per MacKinnon “People come back not only for the sparky performance and the numerous steel and iron props that we build in house, but also for the phenomenal local music and food. For this event, artists harness the power of the Steel Yard’s custom built, iron pouring tilt furnace to pour over 2,500 pounds of molten iron.” We can’t wait for this and look forward to witnessing the next great phase.