Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Shoes of Rochester

This is a community art exhibit and walking tour organised by Art Esprit and starts on Saturday 6th June running through the summer in Rochester. On display are eleven enormous shoe sculptures created by Adam Pearson. The shoes Re made from earth friendly materials and arranged strategically throughout to form a walking tour. Each shoe is decorated and has a poem relating to it. Local artists and writers have collaborated with words and images. The Shoes of Rochester opening features include a shoe fashion show and a signing and installation of the "Vietnam Boot" at City Hall by area veterans. Other "Shoes" events include the unveiling of the "Shoes" planters, and workshops for local youth to paint old shoes to be displayed in local businesses as planters. The creation of a poetic/oral local history by Rochester's Poet Laureate, Andrew Periale, will honour the memory of Rochester's past through the stories of its shoe-mills and shoe-mill workers. From the early 1700s to the mid 1900s, Rochester was a major shoe manufacturing centre. In the beginning making shoes was a slow process and involved manual labour. After 1874 came the invention shoe lasting machine by Jan E. Matzeliger. This revolutionised mass production of inexpensive footwear and New England became the centre of the United States shoe industry. As was the custom local citizens would raise money to build a factory to lure manufacturing and jobs to their town. The first firm to move into the district was the Boston shoe company but the endeavour was unsuccessful. Later a company leased the property and started production of Alaska boots which became very popular. By 1892, East Rochester had two shoe factories both built through the efforts of local citizens. As the decades past more firms were attracted to the area which now had a skilled work force as well as well established satellite industries which supplied the materials. In the early years tanneries supplied leather and woodworkers made lasts. Shoe making remained a vital part of Rochester for much of the 20th century.

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