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.

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