TALES FROM CHAIR CITY
Directed, Filmed and Edited by
Turning Tide Productions
Contact: robbie AT turningtide DOT com
TALES FROM CHAIR CITY is a half-hour documentary oral history portrait of Lenny Curcio, the last handcrafted chair maker in Gardner, Massachusetts, known as Chair City. At 89 years old, Lenny continues to work at his Wayside Furniture shop, hand weaving the traditional fiber rush-style seat. Lenny is a critical part of Gardner’s living heritage.
“My father brought me into the business when I was 16,” recounts Lenny. “The first thing he taught me to do was to do the fiber seating on the chairs, which is what I still do. We were taught as youngsters to do it well, or not do it at all. Those of us still doing it can give you a chair that you would be proud of. In the New England, old-Yankee style, you can’t get better furniture from anybody else!”
Lenny Curcio is one of the many people who worked in the industry that gives Gardner its identity. In 1910, over a dozen furniture factories in Gardner produced 4 million wooden chairs. Gardner was known throughout the world for it’s fine crafted chairs. Today, there are only three enterprises making wooden furniture here – and Lenny Curcio’s Wayside Furniture is one of them.
In TALES FROM CHAIR CITY, we’ll hear why Lenny Curcio and his work are an important part of Gardner’s history. We’ll hear from local historians and artists who are attempting to keep the legacy of making furniture alive. We’ll explore the question of why the work that Lenny Curcio continues to do is important to the greater Gardner area.
We’ll feature the head of the local historical society who - in his spare time - apprentices with Lenny and dreams of starting a maker space where the skills of workers in Gardner could be honored and young people could learn the proud craft heritage of this blue-collar town. We’ll include the young artists behind the Gardner Makes project, which, each year uses a pavement roller to print large format woodcuts celebrating manufactures and makers in Chair City. We’ll hear from Lenny about what the work means to him and how his daughter has started a chair repair business of her own.
TALES FROM CHAIR CITY will also feature interviews with Chris Pera, a local historian; Tracie Pouliot, director of the Chair City Community Workshop; A.J. Peterson, the last vice-president at Nichols & Stone furniture factory; Heidi Hosmer, community artist; Pam Meitzler of the Gardner Public Library, and Karen Curcio, daughter of Lenny Curcio and a third-generation seat weaver.
When we asked Lenny why he continues to come in every day and do this work, he answered our question, with a question that suggested a bit of heartbreak, a bit of defiance, and a bit of hope – “What else would I do?” And, of course that is our question here in Gardner – faced with the decline of the industry that defines our city – what else would we do, except put ourselves to work producing meaning and beauty out of what remains of our proud manufacturing heritage.
The purpose of the TALES FROM CHAIR CITY film is to show that in Gardner we still care about how things are made and that we honor our proud furniture-making heritage.
TALES FROM CHAIR CITY is directed by Robbie Leppzer, an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and radio producer. He has directed over thirty documentaries over the past forty years. His critically acclaimed feature-length and short documentaries, as well as commissioned television news magazine segments, about contemporary social issues have been broadcast by CNN International, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, HBO/Cinemax, PBS, CNN, Sundance Channel, HDNet, Link TV, Free Speech TV, National Public Radio, and Pacifica Radio. Since 1985, Leppzer has been director of Turning Tide Productions, an independent documentary video production company located in Wendell, Massachusetts.
TALES FROM CHAIR CITY is produced under the non-profit fiscal sponsorship of the Kenneth Mason Waugh Non-profit Inc. Paul Gingras is executive producer. Jonathan Dudley is producer/interviewer.
For more information, contact: robbie AT turningtide DOT com