Abandoned Tobacco Factory Gets an Acid-Toned Makeover & New Purpose

An abandoned, dark and dilapidated tobacco factory is ‘activated’ as a public meeting place to talk about revitalizing unused spaces through a cheerfully haphazard application of vivid, acid-toned paint. Puerto Rican artist Sofia Maldonado created ‘Kalaña’ (Images by Monica Felix) as part of the series ‘Cromática: Caguas a Color,’ a collaboration with six other artists exploring the intersection of art, community and abandoned architecture.

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You can take in the cavernous space while it’s empty and appreciate it for all its wild neon drips, sprays and strokes, taking in how much this simple application of paint has transformed the feel of the space, making it exponentially more welcoming. But Maldonado doesn’t consider the work complete until it’s buzzing with people, serving its ultimate purpose.

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“My work is mainly inspired by colors and also by the Caribbean way of living; just experiencing light and color,” she says. “The project itself is not just painting an abandoned building. It’s also the idea of having an agenda. It’s a different format of how a public art piece can also become a creative and educational hub.”

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Now, a circular bike ramp encourages playful interaction with the space, and there’s a small stage for speeches and performances. The space will host workshops, lectures, music, presentations and other events.

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“This project was very challenging, but I think it’s exactly what I needed in order to create a new sort of dialogue that could place my work in a different context…” says Maldonado. “It allows me to bring my work into a bigger dimension and also to start a dialogue with the community and open a door for people to have a different perspective and intends to bring new meaning to what painting is, what public art could be, and also how can you integrate a community that surrounds it.”