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A Case Statement for the Wire-Mill Arts Laboratory

History of the Project: Innovation through Technology and the Legacy of the Gilbert and Bennett Wire Company
You drive by it, glancing briefly at the sprawling factory site that sits abandoned, hugging the river, its tall arching windows broken, the brick buildings hinting at how proudly they stood. There is an undeniable sense of place among this collection of buildings and there's a story worth telling. In the late nineteenth century, the Gilbert and Bennett Manufacturing Company pioneered the design and manufacturing of wire screening that significantly changed life for the better on farms and homes, and in factories and mills the world over. The company's ability to use technology to continue to create innovative products lasted well into the 1970's. Today the old mill is the site of a restoration project led by Steve Soler of the Georgetown Land Development Company, and the birthplace of the Wire-Mill, where the leading edge of the Performing Arts will thrive in the same spirit of innovation as that of the founders of the once proud factory.

What is a Laboratory for the Performing Arts?
The Wire-Mill is envisioned as a vital and relevant place for contemporary performing artists, as well as students and residents of the surrounding communities of Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton and Weston. As an arts laboratory it will encourage innovation and welcome the creation of new work. It will reach out to create relationships, serve as a resource for existing arts institutions throughout the region, partner in the development of new work and provide access to the newest advances in relevant technologies. If we are successful, our brick and mortar home in Georgetown will extend its reach through the power of technology and the Wire-Mill will become a more global resource for performing artists and audiences around the world.

During a typical week, local musicians might continue to develop their craft in a state-of-the-art recording environment. While working on the project, they might connect with a new colleague commissioned to write a score for a multimedia theater or dance piece. High school students might try their hand at authoring a video game by learning to program in virtual reality environments. A master class in computer graphics is taking place in one of our classrooms, and residents in the surrounding communities and throughout the state who cannot attend a live performance at the Wire-Mill or at a partnering arts organization can still experience the event through live and taped online broadcasts. And there's so much more possible.

Wire Mill Goals

  • Provide an inspiring resource for local communities and fill a vacant niche for the contemporary performing arts through the synergistic combination of Art and Technology
  • Leverage brick and mortar size through Technology and extend the Lab's Relevance to Artists and Audiences around the World
  • Connect our History to the Future through innovation and entrepreneurial vision
  • Forge a new business model for how a contemporary arts center remains fiscally healthy

Steps to Move Forward
Great visioning by itself is incomplete in a profound way- it is only one part of a critical dialogue. A significant portion of the initial funding phase for the Wire Mill is to be directed at gathering and analyzing information. This means holding focus groups with key members of the arts, technology, residential, commercial and governmental communities that are our targeted audience. It also means employing professionals to do a marketing feasibility study and a site analysis so that we plan effectively for the future.

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