The history of a place informs everything. The past inevitably, if unwittingly, paves the way for the future, sometimes improbably and without clear segues.

Take for instance Buffalo, once the richest per capita city in the United States, which prospered greatly during the manufacturing and shipping-driven age of the late-19th and early-20th centuries due to its location on the banks of Lake Erie and the Erie Canal. Until very recently — and with some lingering skepticism — general public opinion conceded Buffalo’s relegation to the canon of Rust Belt bygones.

However, it is precisely the city’s erstwhile wealth that spurs its current era of commercial growth. A proliferation of preservation organizations, like Buffalove, arose to protect the city’s dense trove of architectural gems dating from that period of good fortune. Taken a step beyond the mere preservation of structures, groups like Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo (ELAB) convert unusual spaces, like Buffalo’s ample grain silos, into pop-up art galleries. Creative reimagination of the past enables a future that feels unique but branches out from the roots of what came before.

Since its inception, New York States of Mind dedicated itself to highlighting the best of New York State. As we enter our second year, we are focusing our lens on the stories of the small artisan businesses sprinkled throughout the state. In a sense, this “new” emphasis exactly aligns with NYSOM’s work to date — just take a look at the Meet the Maker stories on our Marketplace.

What’s different is our shift to telling of the stories of New York — our history, politics, innovation, ideas — through the biographies of the artisans themselves. What motivates a New Yorker whose interests span politics and wildlife to take the reins of a five-generation family tradition of blacksmithing, and become the sixth? How does the decision of a textile company to move into a residential neighborhood change the local economy entirely? What does a body care company based on an Adirondack farm teach us about the State’s natural resources? What does the success of each of these businesses teach us about New Yorkers’ appetites?

The trends in food, clothing, furniture — virtually all areas of retail — coalesce around heritage and integrity; it appears that provenance matters. These locally-made products are imbued with New York’s history, and even as we look to the future, we clamor to own a piece of our Empire State story, and by doing so, to understand our place in it.

We look forward to sharing behind-the-scenes videos and states of mind directly from the artisans themselves.

From New York City,

Christine