Peter O Zierlein’s public sculpture Good Times at the Mills was designed and created to honor the past, present, and future of Easthampton’s historic and iconic mill buildings as well as their surrounding environment. The location of Easthampton’s mill buildings is deeply significant, both historically and with regards to their meaning and usage today.
Originally Nonotuck land, with inhabitants and visitors from Norwottuck and Pocumtuck tribes, this particular site, its nearby rivers, and the surrounding area were benchmark locations for hunting, fishing, and connectivity to a broader, regional water-transportation network. In the early-to-mid 1800’s, mill buildings were built alongside Easthampton’s ponds and waterways, which were dammed and utilized to power the mills, which were all primarily connected to the textile industry and included the production and fabrication of buttons, elastics, and rubber that were all used to create clothing and shoes—and largely remained in operation as national and global factories through the 1970’s. As industry moved away from the Northeast, the mills became underutilized. Beginning in the late 1980’s, redevelopment and repurposing of these historic mill buildings began and continues to this day.
Easthampton’s multi-use mill buildings currently support a wide range of businesses, community organizations, and artist studios—of which 51% are considered to be “creative operations and initiatives”, according to a 2019 survey by the University of Massachusetts Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning department. Furthermore, this particular site also serves as the closest entryway to Millside Park, which draws thousands of community members each year, through daily use of the park and the Manhan Rail Trail as well as local outdoor concerts, performances, and film screenings.
This “pocket park” consists of public sculpture, public seating, wayfinding signage, and a custom “01027” bike rack created by local artist Michael Poole. This project is a collaboration with the Realtor Association of the Pioneer Valley and is funded by a Placemaking Grant through the National Association of Realtors (NAR), with additional funding by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and The Metal Men of Chicopee, MA. This project is an initiative of the ECA Public Art Committee with additional collaboration and support provided by Easthampton Parks & Recreation, Department of Public Works, City Planning Department, and the Manhan Rail Trail Committee.
We are grateful to all who have participated.