Located on the Pawtucket Canal, Western Avenue is a five building complex encompassing 250,000 square feet of converted mill space that made industrial fabrics. The buildings are now completely renovated over to spaces that celebrate art and the art of the hand made – a goal desired as much by the owner as the artists.
The five story buildings house the work only artist studios. These are referred to as the A, C and D mills and they make up Western Avenue Studios. The A Mill is home to The Loading Dock Gallery – a 50 member cooperative gallery that hosts monthly member shows, as well as Loading Dock Arts Inc. – the 501(c)3 whose mission is to provide support and professional development for artists in the greater Lowell community.
There are two, two story structures know as the G and B Mills. The G Mill is now Western Avenue Lofts – affordable artist only housing. The wide open spaces required to stretch out the fabric made an easy transition into spacious lofts 22 feet wide that are mostly unobstructed by supports. Ceilings are 13-14 feet high and higher in certain second floor units. The Lofts anchors the community to the ACRE neighborhood of Lowell.
The B Mill houses The Onyx Room – an event space managed by The Miracle Providers NE, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit that supports children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS through performance based fundraising. It is available for rent for film, music, private parties and corporate meetings. The WA artists have hosted three Boston Art expos in the Onyx Room featuring wearable art fashion shows showcasing the talents within the community. The B Mill is also the home office for Mill City Grows.
The fifth floor of Western Avenue Studios C/D mill was the start of the journey. On September 1, 2005, 31 studios opened to working artists. This expanded to include the 4th and 3rd floor in 2006, and the opening of the A Mill’s 2nd and 3rd floors in 2007. 2011 saw the start of renovations to the G Mill, which was developed to be 50 live/work Lofts with the first residents moving in July 2012.
While the 2011-2012 renovations were being undertaken, the owner brought greater sustainability to the complex by installing solar panels on the rooftops of the A, C/D and G Mills. During the summer months, the building produces all it’s own electricity, feeding back the excess to the grid.
Without taking much of a breath, the 4th and 5th floor A Mill renovation plans were drawn up as the last of the commercial tenants moved out. The renovation of the remainder of the 2nd floor studios was completed. This was followed closely by the extensive renovation to the first floor units in both the A and C/D mills which were completed in October 2013.
In October 2015 the last un-renovated section in the complex – the boiler room – started its metamorphosis and in January 2016 Navigation Brewing opened its doors and started selling beer.
The mission was to imbue the entire site with a new life as a place that supports the endeavors of those who still toil with their hands as the mill workers did. Now the hands, hearts and minds of our artists create beautiful objects for you to gaze upon, wear, listen to, read, imbibe, and share.