Oh E17 and it’s arty types!

The Mill E17

The Mill on Coppermill Lane in Walthamstow is firmly entrenched into the hearts of the local community, so welcoming with it’s living room, cups of coffee, children’s room, honesty library and of course it’s amazing volunteers. A place where you can just sit and admire the artworks hanging on the walls and surrounds, with exhibitions about 8 times per year. There is a wide range of activities on offer such as yoga, knitting, language class and art for kids. A unique setup in that you can have the artwork of a 4 year old hung right alongside the more established artists, as is the case for the current exhibition Ink, Press, Go! on until 13th March 2017.

I recently met up with 2 of the 5 superstar volunteers that help run the arts exhibitions, Mo (Maureen) Gallacio and Carla Cruz. The whooshing of their superhero capes was quite a spectacle as they arrived, but we soon settled in for a lengthy chat, capes tucked in, ready for a cuppa.

I didn’t get to meet the other 3 volunteers involved in the arts, but they are Elizabeth Wells Thulin, Amy Wevill, Nat DiMaggio and Art Teacher David Hughes. Each volunteer takes it in turn to take the main thrust of an exhibition, which was Carla’s turn this time for Ink, Press, Go!

Carla Cruz and Mo (Maureen) Gallacio

Art Works at The Mill
To highlight the important role The Mill has in bringing arts to its local and expanded community, Carla Cruz produced a wonderful video about The Mill’s community arts programme: Art Works.

Between February and June 2016, Carla worked as a Research Associate for Goldsmiths University of London, based at The Mill. The placement was possible by the AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund. Over this period Carla looked into the emergence of The Mill and the impact it has on the community in terms of reception and production of arts and culture in the borough. Her research also analyses the connection of The Mill’s history with the recent history of austerity politics and the arts in the UK.

Background History of The Mill & …….Mo!
Mo loves a good campaign, in the thick of it time and time again for a good cause, I’ll tell you all about her involvement in saving The William Morris Gallery another day shall I? But for now, let’s stick to The Mill, mentioning how Mo was one of the original Trustees in trying to get The Mill opened. It all came about as a result of a 4 year campaign trying to save the Library that once was!

The history of the Mill and some of it’s many volunteers. Website produced by Carla Cruz

Introduce yourselves: Mo and Carla…..

How did you get involved in volunteering at The Mill?
I am originally from Glasgow, moved to London many years ago, and finally to Walthamstow in 2007. I started volunteering at The Mill in 2011. I don’t actually have formal training in art, as studied drama, but have always been crafty. I tried to follow my interests after moving to Walthamstow, going about finding where I could teach printmaking, which led to many a good friendship within my community.

Carla: I am a visual artist concentrating on context and politics, with a studio in Tottenham. I used to attend drop-in yoga classes, and started volunteering in 2015. I moved to Walthamstow with my family from Hackney, as at the time was affordable.

Tell us about the Exhibitions?
There are about 8 Open Call exhibitions per year for artists that encapsulate what is going on in Walthamstow, rather than a private showing.

Stay tuned for what exhibitions will occur during the E17 Art Trail 3–18 June 2017. Usually there is a theme to each exhibition with the current one about various printmaking techniques and an upcoming one to coincide with International Women’s Day.

How did the children’s art classes come about? 
The current kids art classes, run by retired art teacher David Hughes were once more freeplay, and have gradually developed over the years under the guidance of Mo, gradually bringing on board volunteer David Hughes retired art teacher, who has a theme in place for each of his 5 week sessions.

This is a small class that costs £2 per session to cover such things as the paper used. Material donations always welcome.

Entrance at The Mill E17. One of it’s permanent visitors.

What do you love about Walthamstow?
Easily accessible by public transport to get elsewhere to other galleries, E17 Art Trail as brings extraordinarily skilled and talented people here, Community, Friends of St James/ Coppermill Neighbourhood Group, Wetlands opening, Marshes, cafés. I frequent many cafés such as Ricco’s, L’Hirondelle, Wynwood and The Hornbeam….all serving a different purpose and for different times of the week.

I wouldn’t want Walthamstow to become too gentrified.

Carla: Close to nature, easily accessible by public transport, quickly able to become a part of the community and help each other, William Morris Gallery and library.

What are your plans for Art Works at The Mill?
My commitment is to try and keep the building open as long as possible, and to get more volunteers for Kids Art. If there is anyone interested in volunteering, there could be a rota established once a core group of helpers were inducted, taking it in turn to work with the children. I would also like to have a competition to pitch ideas.

What do you do when not volunteering at The Mill?
I started to write poetry about 12 years ago and I have a pamphlet “Homing In” published which I also illustrated. I’m a member of Forest Poets and have taken part in several readings with them.

Carla: I put into practise with my 4 year old daughter what I trial at The Mill Kids Art classes. I always have a craft table in my kitchen as well for my daughter to use.

……and then like that…..the 2 of them whooshed back to their superhero volunteering duties…..

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