At first glance, it’s an open-plan gallery with a rolling exhibition of local art. Venture down the hall and you’ll find a massive warehouse space full of artist studios. It’s a grungy, bustling nest, producing photography, graphic design, illustration and even shoe making – and visitors are welcomed with open arms.
The Mill’s story began in 2013 with a fateful pocket-dial. Erin Fowler, an artistic director, dancer, choreographer and performance artist, was looking for a studio in which to work. She accidentally called Amber Cronin (an acquaintance at the time) and discovered in the ensuing chat that the multi-disciplinary artist and dancer was looking for a place to splash paint around. This sparked discussion about the merging of visual and performance art.
“It was two weeks until we realised we were both tea, not coffee, drinkers and that’s when it just clicked,” Fowler laughs. “We were telling people our plans for 18 months prior, so by the time we finally found this space and signed the lease in mid-2013, we already had a whole line of artists ready to move in.”
Mateus Nolasco, director at Renew Adelaide, helped Fowler and Cronin secure the lease, and now has an office among the tight-knit community.
“We both had a shared vision of keeping the arts and artists in Adelaide, because we felt our peers were being sucked away to the East Coast,” says Fowler. “Adelaide is such a great, supportive place to make art in.” The Mill’s general manager Tim Watts says this is a good example of why the co-working space succeeds.
“Everything we need doing can be done within these four walls,” he says. “We’ve got such a variety of expertise here that there’s always someone around to help you out. That’s really the spirit of The Mill. You’re in a living, breathing arts environment and anyone’s welcome to come and be a part of it. There aren’t many places in Adelaide that can provide that.”
Dave Stace and Peta Alannah, who handle the wholesale and distribution of Naomi Murrell’s jewellery and fashion line saw their business grow from a single A-frame in a window to an influential force in Australia’s fashion scene, largely thanks to the co-working environment.
“With a creative business, the challenge, in the initial phase, is cost,” Stace says. “It’s great to be part of the conversation and community here. There’s a great cross-pollination of ideas, not just artistically, but financially.” In what is a turbulent time for creative industries and small businesses, it pays to be savvy and avoid relying on government funding, so the team behind The Mill encourages reliance on income streams other than grants.
“A lot of the artists here have a commercial side to their art,” Watts points out. “Beccy Bromilow [of BB Shoemaker], for example, sells her products online. Jaya Suartika [of tattoo studio XO L’Avant] has people coming in for tatts. We’re also big fans of crowd-funding.”
The Mill team is always on the lookout for resident artists who will bring something new and helpful to the table. The venue is also licensed and available for functions and events.
“It’s about connecting,” says Fowler. “The main thing we want is to build pathways. We have lots of great arts education here; UniSA, AC ARTS, etc. but I think artists need more support when they start their career.” They also run international exchange programs and have already partnered with dance schools in Sweden and Bali, bringing foreign artists to Adelaide to perform and sending our stars overseas to do the same.
“These connections are really important to Adelaide creatives as we don’t always get the same international exposure as Melbourne or Sydney,” Fowler says. “But now we’re realising it’s easier than we first thought to establish genuine connections all over the world.”
Our conversations with The Mill’s resident artists shows just how important creative connections are to them. Aurelia Carbone, one of the original residents who runs photography business The Analogue Laboratory, was in desperate need of a dark room after finishing studies at UniSA. She found it in The Mill and now keeps the cycle of education rolling with workshops for the public.
“Amber and Erin have been supportive since day dot,” she says. “We all helped to put in walls, electricity, ventilation. When I think about it, it’s a bit crazy but that’s how we roll.”
154 Angas Street, Adelaide
Mon to Sat 10am–4pm