Reduce, reuse — revitalize

Program pairs industry, artists in bid to beautify, spur local development
Aug. 30, 2013 @ 05:54 PM

Built from literal scraps, a new line of products has brought in new business for one local company while adding a splash of color to the downtown Sanford area.

WST Industries, a specialty metals engineering firm, and two North Carolina artists were matched through an Art-Force partnership to create a public art display along Chatham Street and a new product line from scrap metal that would have normally been discarded.

"It's pretty neat," said WST Vice President Brian Roberts. "We are not wasting anything. It is all being reused and recycled."

WST worked with artists Susan Cannon and Chandra Cox throughout the past year to develop and create portable steel and aluminum tables, called the M+ Collection, from metal panels that would typically have been recycled during the manufacturing process. The artists also crafted several colorful panels that were recently erected in downtown Sanford to serve as an artistic entrance into historic downtown.

Working with Cox and Cannon for the past year was a completely new and different experience for the engineers at WST, Roberts said.

"We are used to solving problems, so this was outside our normal comfort level," he said. "We deal with numbers and straight lines, so it was an interesting process."

Raleigh-based Art-Force, a nonprofit working to "stimulate and diversify development in economically distressed communities" by pairing artists and manufacturers together, chose Sanford as one of three communities to assist within the state, according to Art-Force Co-Director Jean Greer. Siler City and Greenville were the other two locations selected.

"[Art-Force Co-Director Janet] Kagan and I spent a great deal of time researching the potential for Sanford manufacturers to work in an innovative alliance with artists to design new products with the potential to spur growth," Greer said.

Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce, who originally pointed Greer and Kagan toward WST Industries, said Sanford was a logical choice for this type of Art-Force collaboration.

"The project was designed to help in communities that had experienced a big decline in manufacturing," he said. "That was certainly the case here. Now we are seeing a whole new line of products being made in Lee County because of this collaboration."

It's amazing, Joyce said, for the community to also have these beautiful pieces of art that were destined for the recycling bin.

The brightly colored panels, which include various metal stamping patterns, highlighted the talent of the North Carolina artists, Greer said.   

"The concept was to align artists with a strong history of metal work and design new materials with a manufacturer to create new products," she said, adding the funding for the projects came from an ArtPlace America grant.

A dedication of the Chatham Street parking lot, now under construction, and the art installations is scheduled to be held in mid-September.