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Lowe Mill: Studios for 250 Artists in Huntsville, Alabama!

Want to see fabulous art and meet over 200 artists? Don't miss Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL!

Want to see fabulous art and meet over 200 artists? Don’t miss Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL!

When you think of Alabama, do you think first of art?

Do! Why? Turns out that Lowe Mill, the largest privately-owned arts facility in the United States, is in Huntsville, AL!

These guitars are EPIC. See the one made from a Star Wars lunchbox?

These guitars are EPIC. See the one made from a superhero lunchbox?

The Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment Complex is a must-see attraction in northern Alabama.

At Lowe Mill, 144 working art studios sprawl across 171,000 square feet of the former textile mill. The building is open to the public, so you can see the 250 artists in action, yourself!

Golden sunlight pours into each of the 144 studios in the mill.

Sunlight pours into each of the 144 studios in the mill.

I spent over four hours last week wandering the facility, mouth a-gape, camera a-snapping, mouth a-chatting with the artists. Not only is Lowe Mill a feast for the eyes (those colors!), but it’s a delight for the emotions and mind, too, as the artists are some of the most charming and creative people around.

Whenever possible, I’ve linked these photos to artist websites, so just click a pretty picture to learn more.

This is what happens when you give an artist a wall to decorate.

This is what happens when you give an artist a wall to decorate.

Food at Lowe Mill:

You can certainly make a full day of the mill, as food options mean starvation isn’t a danger. Me? In the name of researching this article, I devoured a turkey sandwich with strawberry cream cheese at Happy Tummy restaurant, a peach basil popsicle at Suzy’s Pops, and an artisanal S’more at Pizzelle’s Confections. Edible art!

Hungry? Lowe Mill offers food, drink, and dessert, like this artisanal S'more from Pizzelle's Confections.

Hungry? Lowe Mill offers food, drink, and dessert, like this artisanal S’more from Pizzelle’s Confections.

What is the history of Lowe Mill?

The building was erected over 100 years ago in 1900 by Arthur Lowe of Fitchburg, Massachusetts (my state!) as a textile mill. It pumped out fashionable ginghams until the economy shifted in 1937, and the structure was converted into a cotton warehouse.

Giant windows line the long halls of the mill: Perfect for art creation.

Giant windows line the long halls of the mill: Perfect for art creation.

By 1945, the building was flipped into a shoe factory, ultimately supplying boots for soldiers in the Vietnam War. Come 1978, it shifted to a heating systems warehouse. The arts finally landed in Lowe Mill in 2001 when Jim Hudson, the founder of Research Genetics (a partner in the Human Genome Project), bought the building to enact his creative vision.

Freshly-made stained glass.

Freshly-made stained glass.

What was Hudson’s inspiration for turning Lowe Mill into art heaven? Before coming to Huntsville, Hudson was living in Alexandria, Virginia and stumbled across the Torpedo Factory, an 82-studio artist facility created out of a 1918 factory that used to manufacture — you guessed it — torpedoes. From war to beauty!

The artist who knit these shawls, "Q," is also a lawyer!

The artist who knit these shawls, “Q,” is also a lawyer!

Hudson’s innovative investment has paid off. Lowe Mill has been so successfully innovative as an arts facility that in 2011, it was put on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to art studios, the building also houses a multi-use theater (the “Flying Monkey“) and several other performance spaces.

Lowe Mill made me so happy. I stayed for four hours!

I was so blissful at Lowe Mill that I stayed for four hours.

To give you a taste of how much fun it is to wander Lowe Mill and chat with the artists, here’s a sampling of my favorite conversations during my day.

David Nuttall: “Hello! My thing is painting plausible fictitious maps, sometimes on human skin.”

Me: “Um, how do you find people to paint on?”

David: “Find people?! They pay me!”

I later found out that David frequently gives presentations on the topic, “Turning your passion into a business (no matter how STRANGE).”

Realistic fictional maps painted on people's bodies?!

Realistic fictional maps painted on people’s bodies?!

As I strolled through what seemed to be an innocent quilting studio…

Deb D’Zio: “Can you put swears on your blog?”

Me: “Er, no, because I’m also a middle school teacher. Why do you ask?”

Deb: “My specialty is quilts with naughty phrases on them.”

Want this creative mailbox?

Want this creative mailbox?

While having a delightful conversation with Bill Teoh, creator of gorgeous photos…

Me: “Would you mind if I took a few photos of you?”

Bill: “That would be a waste of film.”

These artists give inspiration for how to decorate rooms, eh?

These artists give inspiration for how to decorate rooms.

After nearly fainting from fright in a pottery studio when the artist’s dog stealthily snuck up on me and licked my leg…

Me: “I’ve taken so many photos today, it’s going to be a challenge to make sure I label them all correctly in the article.”

Stacy Morgan: “Here, let me write a reminder on my business card: OCTOPUS CRAWLING FROM BOWL.”

This is what a plausible fictional map looks like when the artist is mid-way through creating it!

This is what a plausible fictional map looks like when the artist is mid-way through creating it.

At Magic Mill Music, interrupting a music lesson to browse the artistic guitars…

Me: “You have guitars made from Star Wars lunch boxes?! And license plates?!”

Magic Mill: “That’s not all. Look more closely at the box we used for the guitar in the window…”

Me: “Oh my!”

Magic Mill: “Hey, it’s medicinal.”

Check out those long mill corridors.

Check out those long mill corridors.

Does Lowe Mill offer art classes?

Yeah, I could have stayed in Lowe Mill all day to chat with those creatives. If more hands-on activities are more your thing, though, never fear. The facility has lots of art classes, craft supply shops, clothing and jewelry to try on, event space, and even music lessons!

An artist hard at work on metal clay jewelry.

An artist crafting jewelry of metal clay. I’d never heard of that medium!

The only thing that makes me sad, writing this article, is that I don’t have room to acknowledge each and every person whose creative energy makes Lowe Mill such a joy.

Luckily, there’s an excellent directory of every artist studio (replete with search filters) on the mill’s official website, should you crave more artist details. Even if you won’t be in Huntsville any time soon, do feel free to reach out to individual artists through those links, as many of them ship their work.

Do these paintings making you happy, or what?

Do these paintings make you grin, or what?

Do the artists live in Lowe Mill?

No, these 144 studios are just work and display spaces. That said, artists do their craft during… creative hours, so even though the official visiting hours of Lowe Mill are of the more traditional 12-6pm flavor, you better bet there are some night-owl artists.

These paintings manage to be stately and haunting at the same time.

These paintings manage to be stately, fun, and haunting at the same time.

What does it cost to have an artist studio in Lowe Mill?

Are the studios free for artists? No, artists must pay rent and need to be selected from a rigorous juried process in the first place, but the cost of having studio space in the mill is kept very affordable so the art has room to grow.

Pottery, light, and red couch.

Pottery, suitcase, sunlight, and red couch.

It’s not just the affordability or glorious big-window sunlight that makes Lowe Mill such a dream for artists, however — it’s the community and creative cross-pollination.

Heather Baumbach, painter of donuts and winsome cows, explained, “When I get stuck on a piece, I just pop down the hall and get another creative opinion on it. A lot of times, that other artist will point out a way forward that I would never have realized if I were just working alone.”

This is both art and chocolate! Did you guess it's edible?

This is both art and chocolate! Did you guess it’s edible?

The artistic synergy crosses disciplines and media. In Bill Teoh’s photography studio, my friend and fellow travel blogger, Tomiko, was admiring Bill’s portrait of a gorgeous woman. “Is that a professional model?” she asked.

“No,” Bill replied, “that’s just Kanthi, one of the painters from down the hall who volunteered her face for the shoot!”

Each of the 144 working art studios is decorated differently.

Each of the 144 working art studios is decorated differently.

Now that you have the background goodies, I invite you to lift your heart by doing a leisurely scroll through a few more studios. Notice that it’s not just the actual art which is art — the manner in which each studio is decorated is art, too, so you might just get ideas for your next home reorganization! Let’s go.

So many brushes! Clearly an expert works here.

So many brushes! Clearly an expert works here.

Every detail of Lowe Mill bursts with color and creativity.

Every detail of Lowe Mill bursts with color and creativity.

Don't those windows just make you want to paint?

Don’t those windows just make you want to paint?

Sharing a studio with the map-maker is his wife, a landscape artist.

Sharing a studio with the map-maker is his wife, a landscape artist.

These decorations make you want to walk right into the studio.

These decorations make you want to walk right into the studio.

See the upside-down mannequin?

See the upside-down mannequin?

Such tranquil light.

Such tranquil light in the studios.

Visiting Soon? Here are Great Accommodations in Huntsville:

Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL is one of Alabama's best tourist attractions because its 144 artist studios are a delight to walk around!

On Pinterest? Pin this to save this article! Featured art: Mountain Moon Glass and Hook and Bobbin.

So what do you think? Does Lowe Mill thrill you, too?

Which are your favorite studios and works of art pictured here? What else do you have to add? Do share!

See my 40 other art inspiration articles…

 

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Catherine Brady

Sunday 15th of March 2020

Beautiful photos, I had no idea Huntsville, AL had such an artistic community. It seems like you've capture the soul of Huntsville perfectly!

Keryn Means

Friday 13th of March 2020

I LOVED getting lost in Lowe Mills. And they have the best spot for homemade marshmallows!

Lillie Marshall

Saturday 14th of March 2020

Drool!

Vanessa

Saturday 13th of January 2018

What a gorgeous space. I love that there's such a nice mix of huge and small pieces - it's like you can get a life changing massive painting or a pretty pottery mug for your mom all in the same space.

Beth Norwood

Friday 29th of December 2017

Thank you Lillie for visiting the Lowe Mill! We really appreciate you spending some time here, please come back and see us soon!

Lillie

Friday 29th of December 2017

Thanks so much, Beth!

Izy Berry

Monday 21st of August 2017

So much life in this space! Hilarious conversations too. I specialize in quilts with naughty phrases! Lol

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