So far it’s been a hot, humid and wet summer and we hope everyone is finding ways to stay cool.
Nevertheless we’ve been busy with construction and the long-awaited completion of an additional 28 new studio/office/work spaces in building 7. Twenty-one of the studios are pre-rented to existing small businesses, new startup businesses, as personal hobby and art studios, and one large loft residence. The new tenants will be joining nearly 60 current tenants including Equinox, an outdoor gear manufacturing company; Boulder Design Group, a software design company; becker.s photography, a professional photography studio; Eric’s Edibles, specializing in handcrafted pickles, peppers, and canned vegetables; and Tanya’s, a large bridal and formal wear store.
The Pajama Factory continues to grow and attract companies and jobs to Williamsport. Presently, there are about 100 people who work at the factory and the buildings are only about 25% occupied. The new studios will add 30 to 40 more jobs and bring occupancy to about 33%.
In preparation for the opening of the studios, we brought in 2000 amps/3-phase underground power service (quite an undertaking!) and are working at restoring the metal framed windows to minimize heat loss in the winter. We’ve also had some nice additions to the courtyard – Eric (of Eric’s Edibles) and many of our other tenants have replanted the garden and we’ve added some dining tables and chairs which come in handy for the impromptu grill nights with tenants. We are also building some colorful Adirondack chairs (right in our own community wood working shop) that will provide a place to laze away a not-to-hot afternoon.
We have a smaller artist-and-residence program this year – a couple from Berlin who will be showing work at the end of July and an artist from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania (about an hour from the Factory). This is the first year the Pajama Factory has run this program and we look forward to many more opportunities to bring in outside artists to stimulate our community.
We are turning over the rest of this issue of our newsletter to one of our tenants – Ralph Wilson of Pennsylvania Photographic Workshops. As Ralph explains below, over the past several months, he has been working on a project that “deals with the issues of depression, self-injury, suicidal ideation and most importantly, healing.” The images are being shot and the film developed right here at the Pajama Factory. Art can be a very powerful voice in exploring issues like this and we urge our Pajama Factory friends to help support this worthwhile initiative and find out more about it below.
– Mark and Susie Winkelman
Stay – an exhibit by Ralph Wilson
Walking into Studio Six in a gray suit with portfolio in hand, Kate Traxler introduced herself as an applicant for an internship at Pennsylvania Photographic Workshops. Overcoming her nervousness, she began talking enthusiastically about her experiences and goals. No question, the job was hers.
She fit in quickly and as she coached beginning students at our workshops, she became a friend to everyone and charmed many with her contagious smile and school-girl giddiness.
It was later as we became friends that Kate started sharing what many people would have kept hidden as personal secrets; tales of a heart-breaking childhood that included a broken family, abuse and the loss of a close relative. She spoke of years of therapy and medication to help her through a childhood of depression. The conversation turned to acts of self-injury and suicidal inclinations and the difficulty in getting past those urges.
Even though I had personally gone through periods of sadness and perhaps depression, I did not have a full picture of how periods of deep depression can control a person’s life. The more I learned, the more compelled I felt to help get that message out into public view.
My best tool for communicating is through my photography. Knowing that, I set out to create a body of work that deals with the issues of depression, self-injury, suicidal ideation and most importantly, healing.
Still somewhat naïve, I asked a friend – Brian – to stand in as a model. As I described the subjects, he shook his head in agreement and revealed that he experienced all the issues we were addressing while growing up. Next, I went on a fund-raising call and met a woman who talked of being a rape victim and had fought off suicidal thoughts. Soon I was talking with parents who had lost children to suicide, other abuse victims and people diagnosed as bipolar.
The more involved I became, the more I realized a great number of people have, or still do, struggle to see the value of living. I began to see the how many hide behind masks and false smiles, while fighting an internal darkness.
The project that was initially inspired by my intern transformed itself into the Stay exhibit. Through our art, we attempt to depict the long-term consequences and struggles of depression and the social stigma associated with it.
The Stay exhibit is a series of fine art photographic portraits, along with writings contributed by persons who have struggled with depression. We take the viewer through causes of depression, its manifestations, such as isolation, self-injury and suicidal ideation and on to the journey of healing.
It is a travelogue into, and back out of, the darkness felt by many who are struggling. It is not a summary of statistics or resources; it is meant to address the emotional toll of depression.
We speak to topics that the world has not learned to talk about or embrace. Just the words abuse, depression and suicide hold such stigma, that many remain silent. Our hope is this project will help foster an open dialog in these areas that have become too easy to brush aside.
Our message is that depression needs to be recognized as an illness and to show that others are aware of, and understand, the patterns and thoughts they are experiencing. It reinforces that healing is possible.
Through public displays of this project, we hope to encourage others to identify and share their feelings, as well as, encouragement to seek help from friends, family, and professionals and to help remove the feeling of isolation, self doubt, and pain they may feel.
The story does not have a “happily ever after” ending; it ends with an acceptance of life as it is, and a hope for better days ahead.
Stay is scheduled to be displayed at the Pajama Factory in April 2014 and then in May 2014 at Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness month.
In Closing – Kate’s words
The journey of “Stay” did not begin when I walked into Ralph’s studio venting about my senior art project. No, the journey of “Stay” began with the first minute of life. Everyone has gone through moments in their life that have seemed so dark and never ending. Some find the light in life that is meant to shine. Others fall so deep into an unforgiving and consuming sadness of which they can find no escape. This project holds a strong importance to me because I was one of the many who fell into that kind of sadness. I’ve struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies for as long as I can remember. However, I have become one of the ever growing number whom have survived such things and are walking a journey of recovery. While I have opened my eyes to the fact that my life has a purpose and that life is something worth the fight, I know there will always be moments that I feel are too much to handle….but I know for a fact that there is a beautiful moment just around the bend. You just have to keep holding on and you have to keep reaching for it.
“Stay” has the beautiful message that even though there may be darkness, there is always hope and there is always someone out there who is willing to help you and willing to listen and hear you. This life is meant for you! Live it.
– Kate Traxler