The Mill will celebrate 10 years at an event on Friday, but CEO and artistic director, Katrina Lazaroff says once the party’s over the focus will return to securing the arts institution's next 10 years.
Adelaide needs another 10 years of The Mill
At mid-morning on a recent Tuesday, The Mill is bustling.
CityMag is sitting in with CEO and artistic director Katrina Lazaroff for an interview, as the arts hub’s many resident artists begin to filter in.
As more people arrive, joyous conversation builds, filtering through the gallery, where furniture maker Peter Owen’s exhibition of lamps (designed in collaboration with other The Mill artists) is showing, and into Katrina’s office.
The Mill’s 10 Year Anniversary Celebration
Friday, 16 June
254 Angas Street, Adelaide 5000
The din rises beyond our capacity to continue to chat, so we pause and head out to say hello to the gathered creatives.
They are just a small collection of the artists who regularly use studio space at The Mill, but the group also represents The Mill’s 10 years of bringing together like minds.
On Friday, 16 June, The Mill will host a 10th anniversary event, from 5:30pm, to mark a decade of supporting and building Adelaide’s arts and culture scene from its Angas Street home.
The event will celebrate “the current expansion of The Mill to bring more artists into the city, into studios,” Katrina tells us. “So that’s a really big celebration of the success of The Mill.”
Katrina was witness to The Mill’s earliest days, but the institution was founded in 2013 by artists Erin Fowler and Amber Cronin.
The duo saw a need for somewhere in Adelaide for young, emerging artists to set up studios and showcase their work, as well as mingle and support each other.
In the research period leading up to The Mill’s launch, Katrina was providing a post-graduation dance mentorship to Erin, though the JUMP mentorship program. She was impressed by the founders’ vision and drive.
“I thought it was fantastic they were young entrepreneurs, young enthusiastic people, because I’m very aware of how long it takes to get things happening in Adelaide,” Katrina says.
“It can be very fickle and very fear-based, in regard to making big moves happen. Which I guess I’m now experiencing again, at the 10-year mark.”
By 2016, The Mill’s reach was expanding. Erin and Amber had facilitated connections with interstate and international arts organisations, and as The Mill’s scope grew, so did its team.
In 2017, Katrina had come to a “turning point” in her career in dance – during which she was a performer and choreographer – and was looking to “transpose my skills that were management-based, self-producing and working with councils and community cultural-development programs” into other areas of the arts industry.
She had been watching The Mill, and was interested in helping it continue to grow. “I was, like, ‘It’s time for me to support other artists’, and so had a chat with Erin about coming on board as a program coordinator,” Katrina recalls.
Katrina’s influence in the businesses expanded year on year, and when Amber and Erin decided to leave the organisation, in 2018, she became director, a role which, in 2020, evolved into CEO and artistic director.
Throughout her time with The Mill, Katrina’s aim was to broaden the tent.
“Because initially the founders were younger and some of the artists they were working with were also emerging, I saw my position to actually be able to start attracting some of my peers and people that were a bit more mid-career to established,” Katrina says. “So it was changing it from an emerging-artist-focussed org to a holistic, supporting arts careers in Adelaide and South Australia.”
The success of this approach, executed by Katrina and her team, can be seen in The Mill’s current size. What was once 500 square metres of studio space has tripled in size. Within the current 1500 square metres are 53 studio spaces, home to around 60 artists.
Reaching the 10-year mark in any business is a significant milestone – and even more so for an arts organisation. But the real reason to celebrate The Mill’s decade of existence is to acknowledge what it’s given the South Australian arts community, and why its continued existence is so important.
As we reported earlier this year, The Mill’s current site is earmarked for development. The organisation was recently granted a lease extension of three years, but it is searching for a new, more permanent location for beyond that date.
“We’ve currently looked at four additional buildings this year, but we’ve explored two very, very seriously over the last two years,” Katrina says.
This has included consultation with the arts sector to hear about what services the community would like to see from The Mill, such as a “150-seat theatre; bigger, more professional galleries; more professional facilities in general – so tools, workshops, galleries, event spaces, rehearsal spaces, as well as the black-box theatre”.
Katrina says she has been working with both the City of Adelaide and State Government to ensure The Mill can capitalise on the potential the move could generate.
“It’s very well-known that we are at a pivotal point and ready to spring into the right facility and work with the right developer in order to achieve this greater vision and this long-lasting vision,” Katrina says.
There are contingency plans in place, in case The Mill doesn’t secure the space it needs, or if the space also has a demolition clause, or even if it finds nothing by the end of its lease extension.
“That’ll be the time we find out what our value is from the city and from the government and from the local council,” Katrina says. “We’ll find out. But we’ll keep fighting.”
There is obviously a lot on Katrina’s mind on the day we meet, as the artists mill about on the stairs for the photo at the top of this story. And there will be a lot on her mind on Friday night, as the wine flows in revelry at the 10-year anniversary event.
But it is for the artists, and the connections between artists The Mill has helped create, that Katrina’s focus is so steadfastly fixed on the coming horizon, even as she toasts The Mill’s past.
“I think from where we’re standing right now, and from the board and my perspective, it’s about anchoring this and gathering that energy and understanding of where we’ve come [from] and where we’re going to springboard to the future,” Katrina says.
“That strong acknowledgement of The Mill being a cultural breeding ground and a support for Adelaide and South Australian artists, and celebrating that and gathering the recognition for the next step and the greater vision.”
The Mill’s 10th anniversary celebration will be held at 154 Angas Street on Friday, 16 June from 5:30—7:30pm. It is a free event.
For more information and to secure a spot, see here.