‘Torrington is SoHo in the ’60s’
By Jack Sheedy
Photos by Ryan Lavine
Gerald Incandela is bullish on Torrington. “He sees through the warts,” says Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone, adding that he sees the struggling municipality “through a different lens, an artist’s lens.”
A world-renowned photographic artist, Incandela has exhibited in scores of galleries and is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and many more public and private spaces in the U.S. and abroad.
His oeuvre is substantial, but it’s not finished. The Washington resident has lately focused his attention on a long-term project: the revitalization of Torrington, where for a decade he has maintained a studio on Center Street. He wants the former mill town to be a destination for artists. “Torrington is SoHo in the ’60s” he says, “in the middle of the most beautiful rural setting, with countryside all around.”
In 2022, Incandela was inspired by the students of the city’s St. John Paul the Great Academy, who crafted model airplanes from recycled materials. He displayed photographs of them in downtown storefronts and displayed the planes in his spacious studio, a converted warehouse. Carbone; Victoria Mazzarelli, artistic director of The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory; her dance students; academy students and staff; and Mark McEachern, president of the Torrington Historical Society, attended the event.
McEachern writes in an email, “Torrington is fortunate to have an artist of Incandela’s caliber and passion working to improve and beautify the downtown historic district and the downtown arts and culture district.”
Edward Goad, the academy’s principal, writes in an email, “I believe Mr. Incandela to be a friend to not only St. John Paul the Great Academy but also to the town of Torrington. He has proven that he can…turn buildings into destinations.”
Incandela says, “That’s why I became public originally, to save some industrial buildings.”
But, he acknowledges there are obstacles. “What we don’t have is curb appeal,” he says. When he sees litter near his studio, he picks it up and places it in the trash, hoping his example will spread “like an ink drop on blotting paper.”
Carbone recalls that when the city was planning its riverfront revival, she turned to Incandela. He provided a space at Center, the former Sons of Italy Hall next to his studio, where developers, Gov. Ned Lamont, and representatives from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection gathered to discuss what was to become Pennrose’s Riverfront, 60 apartments and 1,200 square feet of retail space on Franklin Street. It became a reality in 2022.
She also recalls that he researched designs for her vision of a meditation labyrinth for the new Franklin Plaza. “He was the catalyst for so much that has happened in that area,” Carbone says.
He continues to beautify his own space, planting black locust trees, ivy, and sunflowers in the lot between his studio and Center. Nine linden trees form a square in a flagstone courtyard with hanging gardens. An urn graces an oil tank-turned-pedestal fronting Franklin Plaza.
Incandela’s next project may again involve the students at the academy. He says there is a wall in the Nutmeg Fudge Company on East Main Street that is begging for artwork. He asked owner Kristy Barto, “Why don’t you have a mural made by children here?” Barto and Incandela are working with the academy to make that happen.
“It’s just so good to see somebody like Gerald investing in downtown Torrington,” says Steve Temkin, co-founder of Torrington Downtown Partners. “He is a big part of the new blossoming art scene in Torrington.”