Bristol’s worldly ties

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Gov. Lincoln Chafee toured Amaral Custom Fabrications last week, owned by Paul Amaral.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee was surprised to find out that one of the country’s major fabricators of large-scale public art is located in Bristol.

Tucked away in an over-sized warehouse on Broadcommon Road sits Amaral Custom Fabrications. On the outside, the looming gray building looks like any other in an industrial park. Tinkering, grinding and compressor sounds are amplified with the opening of a door.

Inside, Gov. Chafee and a caravan of art aficionados discovered how large a connection Bristol has to the international arts world.

“German artist Katharina Grosse is here and currently working on several pieces that will be installed in New York City later this month,” said owner Paul Amaral, directing a crowd that gathered for an industrial arts tour to the rear of the building. Just outside one of the bays, a slender female dressed in a white haz-mat suit, hurriedly walked from one large piece of styrofoam to the next, wielding a spray gun of paint.

It was Ms. Grosse.

“She’s not to be disturbed, she’s in a tear,” Mr. Amaral said.

Instead, Mr. Amaral invited Gov. Chafee and the group to view one of Roy Lichtenstein’s pieces, Tokyo II, which is in Bristol for cleaning. Mr. Lichenstein was an American pop artist who emerged out of the 1960s as a leader in the new art movement, along with Andy Warhol. He died in 1997, and a foundation was established to commemorate his talents and art pieces.

The group toured Mr. Amaral’s business Oct. 7 in an effort to highlight October as Arts and Humanities Month. Gov. Chafee was joined by local art enthusiasts and Explore Bristol members Linda Arruda and Mike Byrnes, as well as Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, among others.

Ms. Arruda and Bristol artist Jane Lavender initiated the tour in August, brining Mr. Rosenbaum to several sites in Bristol they considered “artistic secrets,” like Mr. Amaral.

Mr. Amaral wasn’t always a producer of large-scale art. When he first started working, he was a craftsman, constructing boats with composites. That knowledge parlayed into the field of industrial arts when he realized he could bring to life an artist’s vision, using those same skills. Because of the composites background, Mr. Amaral said, the pieces he creates will never fade or rust, which makes his business more attractive to artists.

“I know of no other fabricator who was also a boat-builder,” he said.

From 2010-2012, Mr. Amaral’s business earned about $1.2 million. He employs 15 people, and utilizes several students from the Rhode Island School of Design as interns.

Another Bristol craftsman who used his background in marine trades is Matt Dunham, owner of Clear Carbon Components (C3), the other stop of the industrial arts tour.

C3 is located on Tupelo Street, and operates out of a slightly smaller warehouse. Using carbon fiber, Mr. Dunham creates musical instruments and various boat pieces that would otherwise be aluminum or metal.

He built a cello for Yo-Yo Ma, which was played during President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008.

“It’s really interesting and the (industrial arts) industry is a more steady customer,” said Mr. Dunham, who started out building high-tech racing sailboats. “We’ve been really lucky that our business has been consistent. We’re actually starting to (increase business) now.”

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