Maybe They Could Increase Residency By Offering A Pastry Of The Month Subscripton?

A little bit of amplification of my local community today. Next City ran an article on the Mill Hill artist village that is developing in one of Macon’s original neighborhoods, Ft. Hawkins. The project is a partnership between Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority, Macon Arts Alliance and the Historic Macon Foundation which has developed renovated houses once used by mill workers into artist housing.

They also turned the auditorium building that once served the mill community into an activity space which includes a large industrial kitchen which is being used by a baking collective, but is also available for hourly rental on a more casual basis.

The industrial kitchen was installed as a result of interviews done with the local community when the project had barely been conceived. People had mentioned their mode of creative expression was related to food and that they were running businesses out of their home kitchens.

When the project first began, the people behind what would become Mill Hill worked with the local Roving Listeners group. They went door to door in 2015 for six months, getting stories from people. This included talking with people at Davis Homes, a 184-unit public housing development down the street from Mill Hill.

“We weren’t even talking about a forthcoming project,” Olive says. “It’s pretty common for development projects to go in and say, ‘We’re going to do this planning effort. We’re going to have community meetings. We’re going to do this.’ And it’s all sort of framed around ‘because we’re going to do this project in the future.’ And really, with the Roving Listeners phase, it wasn’t through any lens. It was just knocking on people’s doors.”

They recorded people’s stories and compiled some of them along with photos in a book called “Heard on the East Side,” distributing it to residents. They also referred back to those conversations when creating the Mill Hill master plan, which was completed in 2018.

Currently, there isn’t a lot of occupancy in the artist village. Of the seven houses that have been restored, only one has been purchased by a private individual. One the Arts Alliance owns for use by its artist-in-residence. As those interviewed for the article indicated, there hasn’t been a lot of marketing done to make people aware of the spaces. As a result, they haven’t reached a critical mass of interest.

I will confess to possibly contributing to that. When I was looking to buy a house around this time last year, I was seriously considering some of those houses but the fact listings indicated they had been on the market for over a year raised concerns about how easy it would be to resell a house if I decided to move.

However, one of the great benefits those houses have is that they are located right next to a pedestrian and maintenance gate into the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. It is basically a private entrance into an historic site with miles of walking & biking trails which also hooks up to an expanding community trail.  I used that entrance a number of times when I was living in Macon’s downtown. Even when the historical park is closed, you can pick up the community trail about 1/4 mile away.

I should also mention that the houses are pretty nice with a lot of open space making them well suited for studio use.

While the houses might not be occupied, the former auditorium space gets used a lot for events, classes and meetings of all sorts. The kitchen the bakers used is HUGE and well-equipped. The best events are those which show off the talents of those bakers.

So overall the project definitely has potential for great growth and is something worth watching.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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