COUNTDOWN TO MEMORY #6: A Mill Space to Call Home

Installation art - Pyragraph

Pepperell Mill (TIME, 2010)

T-Minus 6! This post is part of an 18-post countdown to Amy Stacey Curtis’ next and final solo biennial in Maine mill space. After MEMORY, her upcoming biennial, she will have completed nine solo biennials over 18 years, with 81 massive interactive works, all told. She’s been unloading her process on Pyragraph as we countdown to MEMORY. Read the series here.


You would think after 17 years, eight mills, and eight solo biennials that securing the ninth mill space for my ninth solo biennial would be easy-pee-zeety. But, securing a mill space to call home has never gotten easier.

This continues to be the most stressful part of each 22-month process, way-more-stressful stress than raising the funds or installing its nine massive works in nine short weeks.

It’s up to me to determine the concepts, keep pace at my studio, apply for grants, acquire materials, ask for assistance, hire carpenters, buy insurance, send advertising, rent trucks, move in, scrub the floor, install my installations, instruct participants

However, it’s up to the mill owners, code officers and fire marshals to let me move into, scrub, install and to instruct an audience in a mill. And this isn’t necessarily up to them either. If a mill isn’t up to code, these townsfolk can’t let me use the mill even if they want to.

Securing the mill has always been the riskiest of my business.

If I don’t find a mill space to call home, my work doesn’t get made.

large-scale installation - Pyragraph

Old Sebago Shoe Mill (MOVEMENT, 2002)

My long-held intention has been to mount my ninth biennial (MEMORY, 2016) in the town that hosted my first solo biennial (EXPERIENCE, 2000): Lewiston, Maine.

So when I found out this past April, two whole months earlier than I usually know, that I can mount MEMORY at the Bates Mill Complex, I was ecstatic. Bates Mill! The same mill that hosted EXPERIENCE so many years ago.

I was also relieved. I was starting to wonder if I would finally run out of luck finding a mill to call home.

By the time you read this (if you are reading this in July), I’ll already be working in the mill. And, I’ll be here every day from July 2 through October 31 clearing, cleaning, repairing and installing.

I’ll already have a key, and know how to prop the doors open, and know what outlets work, and which ones don’t, and know by when (that month) I should stop if I want to stop by dark, and know what sounds the mill makes when no one’s there. It will be like home.

Amy Curtis - Pyragraph

Bates Mill Complex (MEMORY, 2016), before the install.

About Amy Stacey Curtis

In 1998, artist and writer Amy Stacey Curtis began an 18-year commitment to interactive installation art, nine solo-biennial exhibits from 2000 to 2016. In the end, Amy will have installed 81 large-in-scope, participatory works in the vast mills of eight or nine Maine towns. Each solo-biennial exhibit is a 22-month process, each exhibit exploring a different theme while requiring her audience to perpetuate its nine unique installations. As part of each biennial process, Amy scrubs by hand its respective mill; the spaces averaging 25,000 square feet.

The Maine Arts Commission’s 2005 Individual Artist Fellow for Visual Art, and recipient of numerous grants including those from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Amy committed to this ambitious and ephemeral project to convey that everyone and everything affects everyone and everything, no matter how small or fleeting the impact. MEMORY, Amy’s last solo biennial, will be open for participation September 17-October 28, 2016 in a Maine mill to be announced. MEMORY will be worth the trip from wherever you are.

Amy (and the thousands of objects she stores to mount her massive exhibits) lives with her husband Bill in Lyman, Maine.

1 Comment

  1. […] the same Bates Mill; I’ve come full circle after installing my previous eight solo biennials each in the mills of eight different Maine towns), I could focus on the same task for hours without stopping, except […]

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