Good-Bye Waltham & WMAA

For 34 years I have lived and worked in my studio at 144 Moody Street. Mari and I came back to Waltham after being in Florida for a year this past May to pack up all our stuff and make a permanent move to Sarasota. Our stay in Waltham was so short and busy with packing, that I realized on my return to Sarasota, I had not had a chance to say good-bye to Waltham and the Arts Community.

Update 10/27/10 Boston Globe Article.

The following is a brief history of the beginnings of the arts community in Waltham along with two slide shows.

A History

(A brief history of the Artists Community at 144 Moody Street)

1813 – American Industrial Revolution in Waltham

There is a building facing the Charles River at 144 Moody Street that says 1813 on the top of it. This was the first building that Francis Cabot Lowell built to begin his experiment in manufacturing in Waltham. He had been to England to observe the cloth manufacturing process and because England had prohibited any plans of their process being taken out of England, Lowell mentally smuggled the plans for his company out of England. He enlisted the help of James Moody to reconstruct what he had seen, and so began the American industrial revolution.

Here, for the first time a raw material was transformed into a finished cloth product in one place. The building expanded until it exceeded the capacity of the Charles River to supply power. With the success of the experiment in Waltham, Lowell moved up to the Merrimack River and built a much larger manufacturing complex.

The plant in Waltham continued to be productive, but expanded again when steam engines came on the scene and they no longer had to rely only on the power that the river could supply. These large manufacturing companies (Boston Manufacturing Company) grew in the northeast until the 1920s and 30s when the exodus started for the south where cheap labor was in abundance.

All the buildings began to decay from lack of use until the end of the 1970s when the artists move into to one building and Ira (Sonny) Gordon began the assisted living and elderly housing in the buildings along the Charles.

1976 – Start of the Artists Community in Waltham

In August of 1976 a group of artists (Andy Haley, Jim Kelly, Jay Penni and Sam Laundon) began to rehabilitate space in building 4 at 144 Moody Street. Andy Haley signed a lease with Sonny Gordon to rent half of the 4th floor in order to build live/work studios. Construction of 5 studios began in September. The floor was entirely empty and walls need to be erected, floors sanded (many years of industrial grime coated the old maple floors), wiring and plumbing installed. Each artist was left to decide how they wanted to design their own studio. As a result each studio has a unique flavor, reflecting the character of the creative individuals that have worked and lived there over the years.

The artists community slowly expanded as Greg Lefevre, Ted Miles, M J Porter, and John Callahan rented the south side of the 4th floor. There was still manufacturing on the 2nd and 3rd floors and Gordon’s Liquors had the office and warehouse on the first floor. Pantos Canvas moved out of the 2nd floor and Artists West moved in (Sue Hodes was one of the founding members). Now two of the four floors of the building were occupied by artists. Building 18 (Moody Station Studios) was also beginning to be occupied by artists. Penrose Glass (Fred Widmer) set up his operation on the first floor.

Thus began the now annual Open Studios. Along with being one of the oldest continual arts communities in the Boston area, the WMAA Open Studios is one of the longest running open studio events. People have been drawn to the open studios event not only to view the unique art the artists create, but also to see the wonderful spaces the artists have created, with styles ranging from rustic to elegant, industrial to homey. Some of the studios are works of art themselves.

It is my opinion that these annual open studio events helped revitalize downtown Waltham. People were coming to Waltham that had not been there before and saw some possibilities for Moody Street. During Open Studios the restaurants were full and the street was busy.

In the late 1990’s this wonderful arts community was nearly dissolved as the tenants of the mills found themselves entangled in a dispute with their landlord. As in most disputes, the disagreement started as a small matter, but escalated when one of the artists contacted the board of health. The landlord sent eviction notices to all the live-in tenants because the landlord did not want to spend the money necessary to bring the buildings up to live-in code. So began a two year struggle between the two parties. In certain ways it brought the community closer together because we had to meet on a regular basis and talk about common problems. The City of Waltham soon realized what a benefit to Waltham the arts community was and stepped in to help resolve the conflict. Negotiations were finally successful and both parties were able to work out an equitable lease agreement. Improvements were made to the buildings and though the City was not willing to go so far as to say the buildings were up to live-in code, they did say we were not breaking any laws through mixed use (Live/Work space) and issued a resolution to that affect.

[kml_flashembed fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://sarasotasam.com/blog/wp-content/photos/mineola/studio.swf” targetclass=”flashmovie” publishmethod=”static” width=”175″ height=”131″ wmode=”opaque”]Get Adobe Flash player
[/kml_flashembed]

Artists who were struggling to hold onto their studios were once again able to turn their focus and inspiration toward their true purpose for being there – to create art! Artists have come and gone (see the list of artists alumni below), but the arts community continues. The landlord has made a commitment to preserving the community and has increased maintenance and improvements much more than in the early days.

Artists have come and gone and I am the last of the original founders to leave (see the list of Artist Alumni below). Much has changed during the 34 years that I have had my studio. We no longer had to hide that we live in our studios. In the past when someone (usually during Open Studios) would ask me if I lived in my studio, I would say “I can’t say that I do”. Both buildings are now full of artists. Computers have created a revolution in art and communication. The one constant through all the years has been the creation of art. Both the artists and the landlord deserve a lot of credit for creating such a unique community and it seems like it will continue long into the future.

Waltham Mills Artists Association web page.

Artist Alumni
WS – Christopher Abrams
RS – Hala Ahwach
MS – Mary Ann Albis
AW – Anne Allard
WS – Ri Anderson
RS – Muriel Angelil
RS – David Arburger
RS – Suzanne Archibald
MS – Dorothy Arnold
MS – Matias E Arroyo
MS – Melinda Ashley
RS – Glen Bacus
WS – Bob Ballou
MS – Ann Barton
RS – Robert Bauer
RS – Sharon Berke
RS – Jane Bernstein
MS – Laurann Black
MS – Sarah Ashley Blakeley
RS – Ariel Brain
WS – Debra Jones-Buck
RS – Susan Cronin Burchard
RS – Sandra Butler
WS – John Callahan
AW – Graham Campbell
MS – Elizabeth Canner
WS – Emilia Carbone
AW – Elizabeth Caruso
RS – Paula Chirstman
WS – Robert Comeau
AW – Eleanor B Connery
MS – Jack Coyle
RS – Stacey L Cushner
MS – Bernadette D’Amore
WS – Catherine D’Ignazio
AW – Victoria Pousette-Dart
AW – Dana M Dawkins
AW – Nancy Day
MS – Darlene DeVita
WS – Aleta May Deyoi
MS – Carole O Einstein
MS – Stan Fink
MS – Norm Francoeur
AW – Robert Freeman
MS – Henrique De Freitas
AW – Pat Kellogg Friedman
MS – Christopher Frost
AW – Marianne Ganzer
AW – Randy Garber
MS – Jessica Garfinkle
RS – Leslie Gluck
RS – Lise Graham
MS – Jean Granick
WS – Steven Gray
WS – Sandra Hadley
WS – Andy Haley
MS – Ed Hartranft
AW – Michael Hecht
RS – Kathleen Houlahan
RS – Hilary Hutchison
MS – Wendy Jean Hyde
AW – Richard Jacobs
RS – Roger Johnson
AW – Ann Johnston
RS – Bronlyn Jones
AW – Mitchell Kamen
WS – Jim Kelly
MS – Joan Kiley
WS – Jody Klein
MS – Joey Kolbe
RS – Nancy Langston
WS – Sam Laundon
WS – Greg Lefevre
RS – Jeannie Liao
RS – John J Lobosco
RS – Pascale Lucier
AW – Jennifer Maestre
MS – Denise Marcotte
AW – Doreen Mastandrea
AW – Roppei Matsumoto
RS – Joan McCandlish
AW – Mary Craig Mclane
RS – James McManus
RS – Anne McQuade
MS – George Middleton
WS – Ted Miles
RS – Jose Mimo
MS – Jean E Minuchin
AW – Sean Mooney
MS – Andrew Morin
WS – Eleanor Morrison
AW – Shirley Nisbet
RS – Carol O’Malia
RS – Claudia Ogilvie
WS – Pam Oliver
MS – Beth Palmer
WS – Roberta Paul
MS – Veronica Peisel
WS – Jay Penni
WS – M J Porter
WS – William C Reynods
WS – Cynthia Richardson
AW – Wendy Richmond
MS – Arroyo Rivas
RS – Mary Palmer Ruch
RS – Liz Rudnick
MS – Richard Segal
AW – Katha Seidman
AW – David Shapiro
RS – Beverly Short
RS – David Sigel
MS – Joseph Silin
RS – Susan Sills
AW – Michael Silver
RS – Beverly Sky
WS – Jill Solomon
MS – Neal T Stennett
RS – Stephanie Mahan Stigliano
AW – Don Stinson
MS – Jean Strachan
AW – Susan Strouse
MS – Norman Thomas
AW – John Thompson
MS – Lisa Tieman
RS – Robert Todd
RS – Jack Trompetter
WS – Bob VonElgg
MS – Carol Waldman
WS – John Wassink
RS – Sandy Weisman
RS – Catherine Weller
MS – Karen Werner
WS – Shari West
MS – Fred Widmer
WS – Erik W Wikstrom
RS – Sara Young
AW – Austin Zimmer
WS = Waltham Studios
RS = River Street Artists
AW = Artists West
MS = Moody Station Studios

Please forgive me if I have left off any names or mistyped a name. Leave a comment for a correction, addition or anything else.

14 thoughts on “Good-Bye Waltham & WMAA

  1. Just perused the slide show–great work. Almost in tears with nostalgia and memories. Christ we all look like children in those photos. So long ago and far away, at least for Karen and me.

  2. Hi Sam: Nice work. Really thoughtful and creative presentation. It made me sad, seeing the old pics of all the founders looking so young – must admit I almost shed a tear for the passage of time. Strangely enough I have written a screen play called Moody Artists which I will share with you after one more edit. It is based on 7 different artists buildings I have been a part of, but certainly Waltam Studios is the biggest chunk.

    You weren’t there but when I pulled together the people for the top floor of the smaller building, building 18, I suggested the name Moody Artists, but everyone was too serious about their art careers to have a sense of humor about it, so we became Moody Station Studios.

  3. Good for you. Nice piece of work. God, we were all so young. Bunch of f—— hippies. Really brought back a flood of memories. Thanks. 
    Walthan Studios is a very important part of the art history of Boston. You’ve got the ball rolling. One way or another it is quite an accomplishment and a lot of fun. Thanks again.

  4. I enjoyed looking at the slide show and learning more about the history of our community. Thanks for sharing all of that. I wish you and Mari all good things in the next phase of your lives.

    Our mill community, and our independent experiences of living and working at the mill, offers rich life experience connected to artistic creativity. It is also often a challenging environment, with physical annoyances (noise, heat, smells, splinters, etc.). I’ve found it a balancing act and one that always feels somewhat fragile.

    Kudos to you for your contributions to 144 Moody

  5. I just finished viewing the site you created for Waltham Studios…it’s just great Sam! I know that everyone who was ever associated with it, however short their stay, feels a sense of gratitude to you for doing this and reconnecting us all with a rich chapter in our lives. For me those years were all so deeply poignant and contributed so much to who I have become and where I will take myself in the days ahead. I am not one to spend much time looking back but this period of my life is still so fresh because it was so emotionally charged and I was like the phoenix…just beginning to emerge from the ashes. Off all that this time contributed to my life I am most grateful for the friendship we forged…it has always been a safe haven for me and it was so tough walking away that last time…knowing you were not coming back.

  6. Great blog and slide shows. Wow, that brings me back. All those parties, all the art and that incredible setting to create it.
    An odd memory, but I had my first Bass Ale there.

  7. Wow Sam,
    That was beautiful. You put together a most amazing History and Slideshows. I really enjoyed every minute of it. Your hard work and dedication is so appreciated. This is truly a wonderful resource and tribute.
    Thank You

  8. HI Sam,

    It has been over a year since Jed and I left and life is very different from when we lived at Waltham Studios. This page brings me back in all the right ways as I’m sure it will for everyone. Thank you for doing this!

    On another note. . .Jed and I are expecting a baby in early March! We are very excited!

    Thanks for your friendship, inspiration, and excellent cat-sitting! WMAA will miss you as Jed and I do. Good luck!
    Emilia

  9. Hi Sam,
    Thanks for the memories. Great historical information that I was not aware of while working in the building. Loved the slideshow!
    Best to you and Mari in Sarasota.
    Bob

  10. Sam – This really needed to be done – good work. Now we have a place in recorded history. I have many vivid memories of those days – the fear of being thrown out at any moment, the endless meetings, and most of all the stimulation of living in a community with such different artistic genres and personalities (especially Kelly).
    My favorite memory was when Gregg and I were getting our plumbing vent system inspected and we passed a garden hose out the window to drain it after the pre-inspection test. Unfortunately, the hose went into the next floor window, flooding that area and dripping through the ceiling onto the Pantos’ suitcase manufacturing sweat shop below. Pantos was a bit unbalanced and came after us with a crowbar beating on the door and spewing threats. This happened twice since after the pre-inspection test was the real thing – no hose this time, we just forgot to close the drain spigot which was in that same space below us. The second flood put Pantos over the edge and we could hear him screaming and pounding outside the locked studio door as Gregg and I tried to act like nothing was happening for the inspector’s benefit.
    It was truly one of the most bizarre moments of my life. Pantos threatened to have all of us evicted. But nothing came of it since the last thing Pantos wanted was to have the authorities looking at his operation and all those illegal aliens he employed. We passed the inspection and had running water and a sink with a real drain!

  11. Wonderful Sam; almost as good as our phone conversation.
    Thanks so much for sharing such a vital history; I glad to have shared some of that time w/you.

  12. Hi Sam, have finally had time to sit and view this at the proper time. It’s all just beautiful. May you find all the blessings in your new life here (and MORE) that you had in Waltham.
    love, Deb

  13. Hi Sam (and Mari!) great website and history lesson! Hope you are loving sarasota…I’ve spent lots of time there over the years myself…wish I could have spent this winter (!) there too..

    the link you have to susan sills’ website is unfortunately NOT me…it’s the other susan sills…I think i need a middle name! i am still in the area…somerville (see website above)

    My best to you both!
    susan

  14. Hi Sam,

    I assume you put this site together (?). If so great. I hope for you and Mari all is well. I may try to follow up with WS news when I have more time. (That is if you really want to know the goings on).

Comments are closed.