Mill Hill project attracts artists to East Macon

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – An East Macon neighborhood is getting a makeover. The Mill Hill project turns blighted houses into live in spaces for artists.

“Years ago, we had great pride in this community, ” said long time East Macon resident Reverend James Baker.

Which has since faded away.

“The houses are just empty, no good. It brings crime,” explained Rev. Baker.

The Mill Hill: East Macon Arts Village project is giving hope to neighbors.

“This is a new beginning,” said Rev. Baker.

The Macon Arts Alliance will turn worn down houses into living spaces for artists and an old rec center into an arts center in the middle of the neighborhood.

“We are going to hire artists to do projects in the community in partnership with neighbors to help realize the neighbors’ dreams for the community,” explained Jonathan Harwell-Dye, the Director of Communications for the Macon Arts Alliance.

The majority of the homes in the area have over grown bushes and busted roofs. The Macon Arts Alliance hopes to renovate a total of 14 houses in the area.

“Artists have the potential to be agents of change. Artists have a unique power to tell the story of a community,” said Harwell-Dye.

Since East Macon’s recent chapters haven’t exactly been page turners, project organizers hope to give the area a happy ending.

“We’ve been praying that someone would come in this community and partner with this community to bring this community back alive,” said Rev. Baker.

Painting is a foreign concept to Rev. Baker.

“It’s going to be a little different because we was into sports back then,” recalled Rev. Baker.

But he’s ready to trade in his sneakers for a canvas.

“I can’t do sports any more, but I can definitely do some arts,” joked Rev. Baker.

He knows this project is the key to breathing life back into his community.

The Macon Arts Alliance received a $134,370 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the artist residency program and cultural plan for the Mill Hill: East Macon Arts Village. Renovations in the neighborhood are expected to begin in a few months. Project organizers hope to have the center and first three homes ready by next year.

The organization is targeting a specific group of people who travel and use their artistic skills to improve communities. These artists can range from nationally recognized to local residents. Harwell-Dye explained “hiring” these artists doesn’t necessarily mean using money to attract them to the area. The Macon Arts Alliance is hoping to entice them with comfortable live/work spaces, but it’s possible there could be a monetary incentive.

The Macon Arts Alliance will use the grant to support the artist residency program in Mill Hill for two years. All of the homes being renovated in the area will eventually be available for anyone to rent or buy.

Categories: Bibb County, Local News

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