Saturday, September 06, 2014

Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment Center

Color Photos courtesy of Allison Lewis

Some people travel to the southeast to see the arts, visit the old studios in Muscle Shoals, see the zoo in Birmingham, maybe make a quick stop in Huntsville to look at the rockets and travel on sure they have sampled the best Alabama has to offer.  They are wrong.

If you go a few miles further past the Saturn V standing on I-565 in Huntsville, and if you know where to turn, you may see an old cotton mill that once housed a shoe factory called Genesco.  Long ago it was a major employer for the hundreds of workers who sat within the redbrick walls on the wooden floors cutting a sewing in the sweltering summer heat as the aging machines labored. 

Then it was closed, employees sent home and Huntsville lumbered into the Space Age as the rocket ships plowed their way like mules into the blue skies and on to the Moon.

But the buildings remained.

And the city that built the rocket ships changed as new high tech industries made the local research park home to more diversified and in some ways darker places to work.  As weapons industries replaced America's ambitions in space, as the universities grew and the city spread out beyond the emerald necklace of green hills that once circumscribed the city proper, quietly the art communities also expanded. 

Where once there was only the old Arts Council housed in an ancient city school, then torn down to make a parking lot and the arts scattered across the city, when all of the counter culture artists could be gathered into a small bungalo for a party, suddenly there were many many more artists. And they found a champion in the owner of Hudson Alpha, a genetics firm, who bought the old Lowe Mill and dedicated it to the arts. 

For the past few years, the factory space was transformed into galleries, studios, and artists, painters, dress makers, rug makers, photographers, collectors and sellers of old clothes and even a maker of cigarbox guitars took residence.  The loading dock became a concert stages and bands from the southeast began to play free concerts. 

And the crowds came.  2000 to 5000 people a week come.  And they still come.  And it is marvelous, joyous, light and wise.

And if you come to Alabama, you should come to the largest single arts studio in the Southeast and possibly the country.  Walk in the shops, visit the theatre, see the place where young movie makers come to be trained.  Come to what is made when independents gather in one place and call it home.  There are seven galleries, ninety three studios, over one hundred and forty eight artists, and soon thiry per cent more space as another building is opened,

This is love.  And love is never wrong.

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