By Anne E. O’Keefe
Rockford Area Arts Council
On June 2 the Rockford Area Arts Council coordinated artists and artisans meetings for over 40 artists and craftsmen with representatives of Gorman and Company. “The project involves the adaptive reuse of the historic Amerock building as a four star hotel to include a new downtown conference and event center. Renovations will aim to maintain the industrial fabric of the existing structure while introducing mid-century modern finishes creating an industrial chic feel,” according to Laura Narduzzi, Gorman and Company.
This is another great step forward for this project. The group was made up of a wide range of visual artists, furniture makers, metal craftsmen, fixture creators and custom framers. Since our meeting we have fielded dozens of calls and added over 20 artists to the list of potential vendors for the project. The artists were asked to make their pitch in a brief span of time, bring a flash drive with examples of their work as well as one representative piece of work. The experience will help us prepare for future opportunities for artists.
It was my first time in the building and it was thrilling. Where some may see decay and disrepair, I saw promise, potential and rejuvenation. The bright future was palpable. The comments as the artists looked at the artist’s renderings were invigorating. They saw the same thing I did, of course they would. The view of the river, the blue sky framed by jagged broken windows, the reminders of the past; electrical boxes, metal fans and pulleys will give way to a magnificent space upon completion.
“I look at an object that once had another purpose and challenge myself to make it into a custom light or home accent,” explained John Sonnefeldt, Rockford. One could say this is exactly what Gorman and Company is doing with Amerock Building.
Jeremy Klonicki and Carmen Turner of Mainfraim were excited to be there. “Is there an opportunity to use some of the things that are still here?” Klonicki asked. I imagine this space to Klonicki and Turner was a bit like a kid in a candy shop.
Another unique component to this project is a partnership with Rockford Housing Authority that will provide Section 3 residents with creative and artistic skills the opportunity to serve as apprentices to artists and artisans that may need assistance in production. “The Section 3 program requires that recipients of certain HUD financial assistance, however feasible, receive job training, employment and are connected to projects and activities in their neighborhoods,” said Ron Clewer, RHA, Executive Director.
The rebirth of this building will happen because so many people have believed in its potential; Friends of Ziock, City Council, with their vote to amend the development agreement, the Mayor, and Gorman and Company.
The Rockford Area Arts Council is pleased to be a part of this project. RAAC, the artists and artisans are honored to carry the torch one leg of the relay, which will ultimately ignite the flame.