Paint Factory Headquarters

Celebrating art and love at the Paint Factory

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Since the latest round of renovations was completed at the Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory, members of our community have been putting the buildings to some very good uses.

Ocean Alliance friends Jessica Biker and Melissa Cox put on two editions of There’s More to Sea, shows of paintings, photography, and ceramics by local artists, one in July and one in September. The art looked wonderful against the brick interior of in the Paint Factory’s buildings, and both shows were resounding successes. The artists generously donated 20 percent of their sales to support further building renovations.

We also hosted two weddings in September, both of which took advantage of the gorgeous views of Gloucester Harbor by setting up dining tables outdoors. (Luckily the weather was gorgeous for both weddings.)


What do Astrophysics, Whale Conservation and Haute Couture have in Common?

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Picture an average working day in my office at Ocean Alliance … ocean views to die for, shared pizza lunches, and yesterday an impromptu roundtable with an astrophysicist, an ocean scientist, a private wealth manager and a robotics program director.

What was magical to witness were the dynamic ideas that emerge when science, nature, fashion, and finance get together – although the practicalities of getting a whale onto a catwalk caused a chuckle or two.

What do we all have in common? The complexity of our work, articulating why it matters, and helping people understand how it relates to them personally.

The collaboration between Ocean Alliance (science), Bionic Yarn, G-Star Jeans (fashion) and Pharrell Williams (music) fashioned by Parley for the Ocean (media) is a good example of what can happen when science and artistic factions collaborate. You can read more about it  here.

This project demonstrated that the science of cleaning up the plastic from our oceans can be used as a subject to create powerful momentum for change if it is translated effectively using a fashion and music medium.

The trick, however, is ensuring the science crosses into the creative sphere in its purest and most understandable form and the factions work together in balance and without dominance, like in nature, so everyone benefits. It reflects an interesting form of interdependence which curiously also applies to life in our oceans.

Science and the arts have had a long history of collaboration – Leonardo da Vinci is a singular prime example. Science ultimately drives our culture. Artistic imagination and creativity explores and translates the things we don’t understand, and eventually concepts drip down to us simpler beings so we get the bigger picture as it relates to us. Like here.

Fashion designers fill the catwalks with haute couture designs seeking inspiration from science and nature in developing story boards and producing new collections that have higher intellectual meaning that (hopefully) resonate with their premium clients.

Ultimately the ideas are translated for the masses by the high street retailers.

So maybe science, through haute couture, can be the catalyst to create a “nouveau noble” generation, ie. privileged individuals who create powerful movements of momentum on pressing global issues such as ocean acidification, but more than that, are creating effective networks to resolve challenges for the masses to participate in, not just the intellectual.

Meanwhile, it seems the younger scientific generation – bravely grappling with, for example, solving the 7 unsolved problems of physics – are really comfortable collaborating with all factions of the creative community, creating astounding new dynamics around problem solving and seeding their work into the real world with more meaning and accessibility, inspiring others to join the cause.

Scientists have long since turned to nature to resolve complex issues – did you know that Ocean Alliance whale recordings are travelling through space right now? There’s some very deep stuff about how whale sounds travel around the planet which even today, continue to generate a lot of interest from within our space network. Meanwhile, working with trusted collaborators such as Olin College of Engineering, we’ve been developing drones to help us collect whale blow for analysis – a neat link into astrophysics territory, perhaps, that’s inspiring a new generation of physicists.

So it seems this happy marriage of science, arts and issues for humanity looks set to continue.

Translating science for the masses inspires more people to join in thinking through problems and unearths ideas and opportunities (and if you really want to blow your mind about how this works in a high brow sense check out this video).

Meantime, I’m reminded every time I look up from the screen of my laptop into a glittering ocean view before me what a special world we live in and what incredible people there are in the world today. We all just need to work harder to join up the dots between them and help tease out the practical synergies of working together to solve real problems!

Get in touch if you’d like to explore with us, or want to rent an office at our research and innovation center with an ocean view!

– Debby Clement, Corporate Development, Ocean Alliance.

You Can Help Save the Paint Factory

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Clean up at our headquarters, the former Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory has been a protracted and ongoing process. The birthplace of marine bottom paint, the site was contaminated with large amounts of copper, lead, chromium, arsenic and asbestos. We have invested almost 1 million dollars into clean-up and remediation so far. Currently, a clean utility corridor for the site is in the works–the $200K needed for this project came from the EPA in the form of a brownfields grant.  We expect to have to invest at least another half a million dollars into the site before we can claim that it is fully cleaned up.

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Kim’s Dolphin Dock is Ready for Construction

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A special message from Kim Marshall-Tilas:

To all who helped support the Dolphin Dock!

As of October 23, 2014, Ocean Alliance received approval for the construction and installation of the Dolphin Dock! The process was arduous and required permit approvals from the Conservation Agent, Harbormaster, and Shellfish Warden, as well as a site visit from members of the Waterways Board of Gloucester. The plans submitted were found to be satisfactory and we are free to proceed.

The Dolphin Dock is a true birthday wish come true. I will admit, turning 50 was a bit rough, but thanks to all of you awesome people and your contributions to the Dolphin Dock fund, the big 5-0 was much easier. With your help, we raised enough to meet my goal of $9250. Though I had hoped to have a celebration on the dock before the snow fell, the permitting and construction process was far more in-depth than expected. Fortunately, the dock will be in place early next spring and I hope all of you will join me for a nice ceremony and a belated birthday celebration.

I can’t thank you enough for helping me bring this project to life and for making my birthday so special. I can’t believe I have such wonderful friends. I am truly grateful and wonderfully happy.

Thank you again and again,




Cleaning Up Our Shoreline

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Our friends from Sea Shepherd Boston were kind enough to join us this week for a shoreline clean-up of Horton Street in Gloucester, MA–home of Ocean Alliance. The rocks along our shoreline create a trap for fishing gear, water bottles, stryrofoam cups and other debris that needs to be collected every few months to prevent it from washing out to sea. It’s another example how organizations can accomplish more when they work together:

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Paint Factory Update: Work on Building A Begins

By | aug14, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

There were originally six buildings on the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory site, the new home of Ocean Alliance in Gloucester, MA. Buildings D and F were condemned by the city and were taken down (when we have raised the money they will be put back up with the original facade). Building E is finished and now houses our offices. The restoration of the chimney is complete so we are now focusing our efforts on what we call Buildings A and B (the two remaining brick buildings). Read More

At the Top of the Restored Paint Factory Chimney

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The chimney of our headquarters, the historic Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory, has stood as as a beacon signaling home for Gloucester’s fishermen for over 130 years. In the fall of 2013 it was determined that the chimney structure was cracked and unsound, so the fundraising drive began to restore this icon of Gloucester’s waterfront. Thanks to the Citizens of Gloucester Community Preservation Act we were able to secure a grant to restore the chimney for generations to come. Masons from Numerosi Masonry of Gloucester have been hard at work high above the waterfront and recently Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr climbed up to take a look at the finished work and the view:

Watch a short history of the Paint Factory narrated by Roger Payne and Lisa Harrow here and learn how bottom paint for boats was invented.

Our Robotics Program Gains a Temporary Home

By | july14, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters, Technology | No Comments

Ocean Alliance has had a busy spring. The research vessel Odyssey is having a successful campaign in the Gulf of Mexico with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and reconstruction has started on brick buildings A, B and the chimney of our headquarters–the Paint Factory. Our plan remains to put our robotics lab upstairs in building A, but our robotics program is outpacing the readiness of the building. Antonio Bertone to the rescue. Read More

Paint Factory Restoration is Awarded Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant

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We are thrilled to report that Ocean Alliance has been awarded a Mass Cultural Facilities Fund Grant of $70,000 towards the renovation of our headquarters, the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester, MA. We will be using the funds as part of our restoration efforts on the remaining two brick buildings A and B, and the chimney. These buildings will host our robotics laboratory and education spaces. Take the virtual immersion tour of the Paint Factory to see inside and out these historic spaces.

“It is very exciting to receive this award from the MA Cultural Council,” said Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr. “We sometimes feel that the important role that the development of anti-fouling paint played in Gloucester history has been forgotten.”Inside the Paint FactoryThe total project cost is $318,000 for buildings A and B. With this grant and another $85,000 already committed we have now raised almost half of that amount.

“Investments in our creative economy stimulate growth and opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Through this new round of funding, we are continuing to create a more vibrant place for our students to learn, our families to live and our businesses to grow.”

Read the full press release and grant recipients here.

We’re extremely thankful to the Massachusetts Cultural Council and MassDevelopment for supporting our work

Help Make a Birthday Wish Come True with a Dock at the Paint Factory

By | jun14, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

If you have had any dealings with Ocean Alliance in the last twenty years then you have probably crossed paths with Kim Marshall Tilas. Beginning as Iain Kerr’s assistant, she has worn many hats with charm, exuberance and energy that shouldn’t be allowed in one individual. Most memorably, she was the diver in the IMAX film “Whales” who was captured in a magical swim with a southern right whale. More recently she has battled breast cancer and faced a double mastectomy with the humor that only Kim could. To know Kim is to love her and we are honored that she would make the following request:

Kim Marshall Tilas on the OdysseyI, Kim Marshall Tilas, am turning 50 on July 24th, 2014. To celebrate and honor my wonderfully exciting and fortunate life thus far I want to invite you to be a part of the Dolphin Dock Project. I will raise $9250.00 so that a floating dock can be built at Ocean Alliance’s home at the Paint Factory in Gloucester, MA.

My goal is to toast the new dock on my birthday with friends and family. Every dollar given goes to the Dolphin Dock in my honor. You can designate your donation to Kim’s Dolphin Dock or send a check to Ocean Alliance at 32 Horton St., Gloucester, MA 01930.

Please Hurry! Thank you for helping me celebrate my milestone birthday with a porpoise!


New Robotics Lab Coming to the Paint Factory

By | jun14, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters, Technology | No Comments

When we first started talking with Olin College of Engineering in 2010 about a collaboration, they were very interested in Ocean Alliance providing their students with real world (or applied) challenges. A rapidly growing part of our oceanographic research program is the field of robotics, particularly as it applies to developing benign research techniques (those that cause no harm). SailBot, SnotShot and SnotBot are three good examples. As Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr has spoken at different schools and events he has noticed a lot of interest in this field of robotics, so from our work with Olin and this interest came the idea to build the Applied Robotics Research Laboratory and Club at the Paint Factory, our headquarters in Gloucester, MA. Read More

What We Found on Our Shoreline

By | apr14, Education, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

Volunteers for Harbor CleanupIt was a beautiful clear sunny day on Saturday when members of the Gloucester community gathered to clean our harbor. Teams were dispersed all around the city thanks to the coordination efforts of the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, Maritime Gloucester, our two Cultural Districts downtown and on Rocky Neck, and our own Rebecca Siswick Graham. After a presentation about ocean trash by the Rozalia Project Friday night, volunteers gathered at their assigned locations Saturday morning for this one-hour effort to collect and record as much trash and recycling as possible. Read More

Good News at the Paint Factory This Week–Mud

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Black and White Paint FactoryTo become a functioning oceanographic research and education center at our new headquarters in Gloucester we need a dock. In this case we hope to put in a non-permanent floating dock supported by pilings.  This dock will have multiple purposes–we will be able to bring our own research vessels in and we hope to encourage other research vessels, as well as sail-training vessels and schooners, to tie up in front of the Paint Factory.

One thing we are particularly excited about is giving kids access to the water, whether it be working on a robotics program with Olin College, science projects with Maritime Gloucester and local schools, or just messing around in boats.

As with any project at the Paint Factory this is a long, complicated and expensive process. You need at least 15 feet of mud to put in a piling that can support a floating dock. If you don’t have that depth of mud you need to put in what are called rock sockets. Depending on the depth of the rock socket, this can cost from $8000 to  $14,000 per piling. In our case we expect to have 10 pilings, which would mean $140K just for the pilings.

This Tuesday Prock Marine of Rockland, ME agreed to stop by the Paint Factory and drop in a few test pilings to see what depth of mud we had. Iain spoke with one gentleman who said–you never can tell, right next to a ledge you can have 30 ft of mud, or the ledge can extend out and you can have only 3 ft of mud.

We have good news to report for this first stage–they found an average depth of  15-19 feet of mud along the front of our facility. This means the mud in front of the Paint Factory is deep enough to support the pilings we will need to put in a floating dock. The next step now is to draw up plans and start the permitting process.Paint Factory Restoration Plan

Take a Virtual Immersion Tour of the Paint Factory

By | mar14, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

The Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory is one of the most well-known sights on the north shore of Massachusetts. The historic birthplace of marine bottom paint, it is a favorite subject of painters and photographers, but if you didn’t work there, you probably never went inside—it wasn’t a tourist attraction, it was a factory.

After the property was purchased for Ocean Alliance with a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, Iain Kerr and our friend, photographer Jonah Gouin, wanted to change that, so Jonah used virtual immersion technology to give you a look inside and outside these iconic buildings. Choose one of nine starting points on the “Plan” and move around the room up, down and around, starting here:

Paint Factory Inside

This virtual tour is a great historic reference image compilation that allows us to zoom in and zoom out and capture important aspects of the site that might be lost in regular still photos or a set of measurements.  One of the first things we did when we bought the site was to have every aspect of every building laser measured–when you add hundreds of still photos and this virtual tour to these laser measurements we feel that we have the site very well-documented.

In the case of the buildings that have been taken down, they are priceless reference images for future rebuilding. You’ll see under one building the remains of the art show that was put up underneath the building. The tour of the smallest brick building is the “Before” because it is the first to be finished and now houses our offices. Work will resume this spring for Phase 2.

Be a Part of the Paint Factory Restoration this Spring

By | feb14, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

Now that Ocean Alliance has moved our offices into the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester, MA the next step is to turn the rest of the site into an oceanographic research and education center. To do this we need to finish the second set of larger brick buildings and install docks. We are now focusing on raising the funds to replace the roofs on the larger brick buildings. Read More


By | Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf, Paint Factory Headquarters, Sea Shepherd | No Comments

Sea Shepherd at Paint FactoryMembers of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, including founder Captain Paul Watson, paid a visit to our headquarters, the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester, MA this weekend. The stars of the Animal Planet series “Whale Wars” had a tour of the facility and paid a visit to local businesses and restaurants during their stay, attracting quite a bit of attention on Main Street where the locals recognized and welcomed them to Gloucester. Read More


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Rescue of Garra - Photo by Roxanna Schteinbarg

Collaboration. Inspiration. Influence. Three of the words Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr will focus on in a talk he gives today at A.W. Hastings, who generously helped to provide the Marvin windows at our headquarters, the Paint Factory. The annual meeting is called “Sphere of Influence,” which could easily describe our metamorphosis as an organization from our former incarnation of the “Whale Conservation Institute” to Ocean Alliance.

Competitiveness will only get you so far, but collaboration will open doors in ways you never thought possible. Consider how our collaborators inspire us: Read More


By | Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

Paint Factory Chimney CapThe Paint Factory chimney has received a temporary  cap for the winter. This week Geoffrey Richon and his team worked with Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr to place a protective box over the top of the iconic chimney to protect the structure from ice damage. Next spring the scaffolding will go up to begin repairs on the chimney, but since cracks were discovered at the top using our robotic helicopter SnotBot, it was decided that another winter could cause extensive damage. The day started out blustery and rainy (as seen in the crane shot), making the project a challenge, but eventually the skies cleared and winds calmed.

Chimney Cap CraneOcean Alliance purchased the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in 2008 with a grant from the Annenberg Foundation and continue the restoration project to create a research, education and conservation center with offices, labs and public spaces. Working in a historic structure requires creative solutions. The silhouette may have changed for now, but the goal is to preserve the landmark for generations to come.


By | Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

Paint Factory chimney at sunset - Photo by Iain KerrWorking in a historic landmark – the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory, we receive lots of visitors with stories about the buildings and what they mean to the community. One of the things we’ve learned is that the buildings not only served as a “Welcome Home” symbol to the city’s fishermen coming in from sea, but the 60 ft. chimney also served as a navigational aid. While the chimney is not functional, it became clear that it needed to stay for historical and architectural interest. Read More