Few creatives in Adelaide can claim to be untouched by The Mill Since the hub launched in 2013, its studios have hosted an astonishingly broad range of artists and artisans, from jewellery maker Naomi Murrell and tattoo artist Jaya Suartika (who recently opened XO Temple in Kent Town) to shoemaker Beccy Bromilow, audio engineer Emily Bettison, acclaimed photographer Che Chorley and multi-disciplinary artist Dave Court.

Even artists who haven’t worked in the studios have interacted with The Mill through residencies, exhibitions and shows. In 2021, Ida Sophia, who won the 2023 Ramsay Award, exhibited – while Logie-nominated dancer and drag performer Thomas Fonua (Kween Kong) was in residence. Hundreds of others have attended masterclasses, or developed and performed Adelaide Fringe Festival shows in the 50-seat theatre.

Many of these artists are no longer directly involved with The Mill, and that’s a good thing, according to CEO and artistic director Katrina Lazaroff. “When people grow out of The Mill, we celebrate it as a success story,” she tells Broadsheet. “A thriving arts sector has contributors at all levels – [from] top tier venues that showcase established artists, independent artists and smaller companies, right down to incubators supporting fresh new talent. The Mill feeds this ecology by supporting creatives at all stages of their careers – but especially during those riskier stages where they’re undertaking something new or trying out a new focus. What we do feeds into bigger things down the track.”

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The Mill supports local artists in two main ways. Studios provide workspaces for everyone from painters and furniture designers to hatters and luthiers (guitar makers), while a range of programs supports artists as they explore their practice and develop relationships in the industry. Some are centred around a work’s final presentation, but most provide artists with “affordable spaces, professional development and places to hone their craft, with the aim of developing a more substantial work that gets presented somewhere else down the track.” When Broadsheet visits, Lazaroff has just received flowers from an artist and writer who is about to undertake a three-month residency at a Malaysian arts centre before returning to The Mill to exhibit.

Other residencies facilitated by The Mill connect local performing artists with interstate organisations, including Dancehouse in Melbourne and Sydney’s Brand X, allowing them to develop and tour works – as well as present them to local audiences. Lazaroff is especially proud of the emerging producer program, run in conjunction with Brisbane’s Metro Arts. “Because there are very few producers, it’s difficult for artists to create work and get it out to the world,” she says. “But the emerging producer program allowed us to work with local producers to develop their knowledge and skills, so they could support the independent performing arts community.”

Cultural celebrations like the Fringe and Adelaide Festival have long burnished the city’s reputation as an artistic hub, but they sometimes obscure the fact that the local arts sector has been chronically underfunded for years. The number of independent theatre, studio and exhibition spaces has dramatically decreased. Furnishings from the recently-closed St Paul’s Creative Centre are visible throughout The Mill, and performers who would once have put on shows at the now-closed Rumpus instead use The Mill’s theatre. It has so far bucked the trend, growing from 39 to 57 studios in the last year alone, but its future is far from assured.

“Our black box theatre is one of the last little spaces in Adelaide where the independent arts community can stage performances,” Lazaroff says sadly, adding that its current capacity is insufficient for many performers as they develop their craft. “Fifty seats is very small, but the larger theatres are too expensive for independents. Our core purpose is to create an affordable space to produce work and put it on without having too many empty seats – and a 150-seat theatre is exactly what the independent sector needs.”

To that end, the leadership team has been working on a new venue for the last few years. The Mill was “90% of the way” to securing a space on Pirie Street before a series of local, state and federal government elections resulted in funding falling through. In the meantime, they’ve extended the lease on the Angas Street premises by three years, while Lazaroff is on the lookout for a CBD venue, which can house a larger theatre and rehearsal space, along with studios, a tools workshop and an expanded gallery.

Ten years in, Lazaroff can count plenty of wins. But, just like the many artists she works with, she’s always looking to the future. “I want the legacy of The Mill to be a vibrant artistic community, and a culture where people feel connected to the arts and accepted as part of a creative community,” she says. “We want to see it keep growing and be a strong, secure home for the arts in Adelaide.”