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It Happens Here: Old Rockland Factory Now A Haven For Artists

ROCKLAND (CBS) – Rockland is fast-becoming a town known for its community of artists. And the Sandpaper Factory on East Water Street is perhaps the epicenter of that community.

"There's a big community here, so a painter can meet another painter, for instance," said Alan Curtis, a real estate investor who saw the promise of this building. Built in 1894, it housed a shoe factory (Rice & Hutchins, Inc.) until the 1940s and then a sandpaper factory (Clipper Abrasives) until the 1980s.

Curtis bought it in 2015 and saw an opportunity to fix it up and expand the space for artists. The long factory-style windows make for great lighting.

rockland sandpaper factory
The Sandpaper Factory on East Water Street in Rockland. (WBZ-TV)

"It has a lot of character and it was affordable," Curtis told WBZ-TV.

Soon after the renovation was completed in 2018, artists did flock to the site. There are 60-to-70 now renting studios at the Sandpaper Factory.

One of them is Jenny DeFreitas, owner of Jenny D's Bees. She's a beekeeper and potter who's part of the 4th Floor Artists, an organization of about 100 artists in Rockland who all support one another.

Jenny DeFreitas
Jenny DeFreitas on her scooter inside the Sandpaper Factory. (WBZ-TV)

DeFreitas, who whizzes through the hallways of the building on a little scooter, sells her Raku-style pottery, honey and lavender-hibiscus lemonade – all made at the Sandpaper Factory.

"This is what makes me tick," she says of her art work.

(You can learn more about her offerings here)

Two floors down, we found Erich Hochstrasser making colorful and elaborate guitar pedals and synthesizers by hand. He's been building them since he was a teenager and now has this unique space to grow his business, Hochstrasser Electronics.

rockland sandpaper factory
The Sandpaper Factory on East Water Street in Rockland. (WBZ-TV)

"It's just cool being in a creative building with people who have weird, creative ideas," he said, noting that an opera singer trains just a few doors down from his studio while the guy directly next door sells guitars.

"This building's awesome. Everyone has a cool symbiotic relationship with one another."

(You can see Erich's work here)

Once the pandemic is under control, Jenny and Erich and the rest of the 4th Floor Artists hope to be able to hold public events again. You can learn more at

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