Monday, November 22, 2010

Lydia Pinkham Open Studios - The Artists are Hard at Work in Lynn

When I woke up on Saturday, I knew I was headed to the Lydia Pinkham Building for the artist Open Studios. What I didn't know, was that I was in for quite a Lynn history lesson. I really didn't have a clue who Lydia Pinkham was or what she did in that building in the 1800s. I know, I know... some of you are shocked that I don't know this entire history lesson, but I bet a lot of you are right there with me.

In the 50s, my mom was telling me, that building had a certain mysterious quality to it. No one knew what went on in there and I'm sure the rumors were many based on its history.

One of the first artists I met in the building told me what used to be manufactured there; an elixir for women. Ahead of her time in many ways, Lydia Pinkham was one of the first to talk about female pains in a public way, one of the first to put her image on her materials giving birth to a modern form of advertising, and maybe not quite the first to add a little something special to the mix. Some of her concoctions were found to have cocaine and morphine and all of them contained alcohol. Certainly "altered the moods" of many women and she and her product became very successful. I believe she built many structures in Lynn and today her building serves many artists as a suitable home for the creative mind. It's somewhat fitting that one of the leading Lynn entrepreneurs of our past has passed on something that can be used for such a creative purpose.

The halls are filled with studio after studio, some of which were open on Saturday and others of which were not. It's a shame this type of event only happens once a year. This refrain has been repeated on Facebook a lot since I posted on the event. There were painters, sewers, potters, and comic book writers. There were people of all ages enjoying it all and I even saw some money exchanging hands. At the very top of the building is the Lydia Pinkham Pottery studio watched over by a very pleasant man who knew all the fine details of every single piece he had on display.

I asked a lot of the artists about the art scene and was surprised at the answer. They love doing their work in Lynn. Good rents, live close by, etc. A lot of them had galleries in wealthier communities on the North Shore. I heard Newburyport, Gloucester, Rockport to name a few. It got me thinking more and more about the artist live/work space ideas I've heard thrown around here a lot as of late. I think Lynn would be smart to embrace this idea and bring some real artist lofts in to the equation. They are working and living here and it's working. Lydia Pinkham Open Studios was living proof.


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