HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is preparing to share something spectacular with the Huntsville Community. It's a milestone the Mill has been working toward for quite some time, to culminate in a celebration Saturday, December 20th. What started as a meager textile mill has transformed into a space worth bragging about.
City leaders got a sneak preview of the Mill's newest artist space Friday and WHNT News 19 got to be there for the first look.
America's biggest private arts center just got bigger -- 30 percent bigger to be precise -- to the tune of 31 new artists studios on the Mill's newly renovated third-floor North Wing.
Mayor Tommy Battle, Chad Emerson of Downtown Huntsville, Inc. and Judy Ryals of the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau were among those touring the facility.
Impressing the Mayor is always a plus and the sentiment from Tommy Battle was rather apparent.
"Is this too cool," Battle grinned as he walked around to shake hands and welcome artists to their new homes.
Nestled in the 'Rocket City,' a place often lauded solely for its contributions to research, science and technology, Battle explains Lowe Mill and its artists deserve a place at the trophy table, as well.
"You know, from the engineering comes the arts and a lot of that engineering is artistic ability and this is a way to have an outlet for it. Two hundred artists working in this area -- and those artists take that creativity, take that ingenuity and take those rote things that we make as engineers and turn it into something that has some creativity to it, that turns into a product," say Mayor Battle.
Lowe Mill may sit just across Memorial Parkway from downtown Huntsville proper, but Chad Emerson of Downtown Huntsville, Inc. explains city leaders are proud to consider Lowe Mill a part of Huntsville's growing downtown area.
"Lowe Mill is the national model for cultivating artists and artisans, and we have it right here in the downtown area of Huntsville," said Emerson.
Lowe Mills Media Director Dustin Timbrook says it's a time in the Mill's history that simply can't be ignored.
"Over the past five or six years it has been an uphill battle to get the word out about Lowe Mill," Timbrook admits. "Even on a local level, originally I think there was a perception of this place that it's in this old factory with all these weird artists doing this stuff that's scary and not for kids," Timbrook jokes. "And so it took a while locally to get over that misconception. And now we have -- everybody in Huntsville, I think, is on board with Lowe Mill and we get huge crowds here for events and I'm really happy with that, but we want to reach out to that national and international audience."
One of the unexpected things about Lowe Mill is that most wouldn't think the arts could be supported at the level they are, privately. Not to say there isn't plenty of generosity involved in making Lowe Mill work -- but to thrive privately as it has really seems to speak volumes about the Mill's national gravity, staying power and future potential.
"We've come to in this country, I think, thinking of the arts as a charity case; federal grants and tax-exempt donations are the only things that can keep artists afloat -- and I think that's a sad state of affairs," Timbrook said. "I think art has real value and not just in the civic sense but in the monetary sense. People should be able to make a living making art. Economic values and private ownership; those are things that can be applied to the arts and I think that's a great lesson and I hope the rest of the country pays attention."