“You don’t have to expand to be getting better,” says Erin Fowler, co-artistic director of The Mill, a multi-artform gallery and studio on Angas Street.
Part of its conception in 2013 was to fuse Fowler’s background in performing arts – dance, in particular – with fellow artistic director Amber Cronin’s visual-arts concentration. Fast-forward four years and their original vision for a performing-arts space is finally coming to fruition.
When The Mill’s ground-floor neighbour moved out, Fowler and Cronin jumped at the opportunity. “This particular space I never thought would be an option,” says Fowler, who’s been scouring the surrounding streets in search of a suitable property. “It’s a great next step without having to take on a whole new lease.”
The 700-square-metre arts hub will grow by around 200 square metres, stretching to occupy the whole ground floor of its existing Angas Street location. The extension will comprise a performance and creative development space, a music studio and five new artist studios. Patch Theatre Company has set up shop on the second floor.
“Artists you can jigsaw into a space pretty easily,” Fowler says, laughing. “But we’ve acknowledged that, particularly in the independent theatre and dance sector, there’s a dire need for space … It’s always been hard not having a dedicated space for [that].”
The seven-by-13-metre “Breakout Space” will facilitate an in-house theatre and dance program that’s been four years in the making. On top of a series of residencies, there’ll be opportunities for subsidised hire by independent artists, and collaborative projects. With a small, removable stage, the black-walled space will moonlight as a versatile option for events. It’s expected to be up and running at the start of next year.
Consider it an incubator for local performance artists. “Each year we see loads of AC Arts and Flinders graduates in theatre and dance,” says Fowler. “We need to give them development opportunities here, otherwise they all end up moving interstate and overseas.”
The stars didn’t align in time for a full Adelaide Fringe program, but the intimate, roughly 50-seater space is locked in to host a few shows. “[The floor’s] just concrete at the moment,” says Fowler. “The main thing we’re [looking at] now is a sprung floor for dance.”
She hazards a guess at the current number of resident artists: “36 … or so.” Five new studios – to be ready by the end of the year – will ease the constant flow of enquires by accommodating 10 to 12 additional artists. Expressions of interest are still open for the few remaining studio spaces.
It made sense to incorporate “something we wouldn’t have been able to put into the existing space” into the expansion, Fowler says. A just-confirmed music studio ticks the box.
Phase two is a revamp of the existing gallery. “We’re a making space – not a formal white-wall gallery – and we don’t only want to show finished work,” Fowler says. The plan is to adopt a more open-plan layout, increasing the number of windows to give as much of an “insight into the artists’ processes, as the final product.”
“From a programming point of view, going forward, there’ll be more of a focus on showcasing Mill residents,” says Fowler. “We always wanted to create not only a space for artists, but a community. Four years later, it’s great to have that community.”
The scope of the expansion rests heavily on the success of a silent auction and fundraiser at The Mill this Friday. All are welcome to bid on donated works from current and past residents, plus artists who have previously exhibited at The Mill. The artists who have donated to the silent auction include Fruzsi Kenez, Lucas Croall, Hey Reflecto, Good Studios, BB Shoemaker, Sitara, Frock Me Out and Naomi Murrell Studios.
Hawkers Beer and Hither & Yon are providing the booze. Tunes will be by DJ Jayaism and Yewth DJs with a live set from ex-The Middle East musician Bree Tranter.