Local artists fill Mill Street Mall with original work

July 15, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The arts community is strong in Orangeville and it just got a little stronger with the introduction of the Elspeth Art Gallery at the Mill Street Mall (28 Mill Street).

All of the walls between shops have been revamped to feature local artists over the past two months, effectively turning the mall into an arts venue for people to enjoy.

In addition to the inside changes, the outside signage for the Mill Street Mall is going to be switched over, rebranding it as the “Old Mill Hub”, with a grand opening set for September 1.

“We want to become the arts and culture hub of Orangeville. That’s the goal for the Old Mill Hub,” said Marshal Bobechko, Mill Street Mall property manager, who’s behind the recent changes.

With the old mill formerly being located across the street from the mall and it acting as more of a hub for the businesses, Bobechko said he thinks the new name is a great fit.

The effort to get local art displayed inside the venue has been dubbed the “Unity to the Community” project, which is an effort to unify everyone after being kept apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I thought this was a good way to kind of help out the community and bring everyone back together with arts and culture because Orangeville is full of it,” he said.

“It’s completely free to the public and we aren’t even charging rent to the artists spaces, so it’s completely free for them too.”

A key feature of the Elspeth Art Gallery is the Toby Heyworth Hall, which has the theme, “What Orangeville Means to Local Artists”. More art for this hallway is coming in every day.

In a normal year, Orangeville enjoys many festivals and in-person art exhibitions, which have largely been halted due to public health restrictions.

Bobechko said he’s hoping the art will bring some joy to those that have desperately been missing it through the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The art is also meant to help bring mental wellbeing to those that have been missing it.

“I’ve had a family member that was really suffering with mental health and art really just changed her life,” Bobechko said. “That’s what made me go, ‘whoa, I think this can really help bring people back together’.”

As well, the introduction of the Elspeth Art Gallery should help expose more customers to new businesses in the mall and existing ones that have struggled heavily throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past year and a half, the Mill Street Mall had many vacancies, but as of late, with Ontario lifting many of its restrictions this Friday (July 16), things are looking much better.

“It was empty for quite a while, and for a long time we weren’t able to fill a lot of units, and we’re just now starting to pick up again,” explained Bobechko.

“We’ve been able to lease out all the spaces now that things are opening up again.”

Some of the businesses in the mall include an art studio that offers camps and classes, a pottery studio, tattoo parlor, and hairdressers – which fit in well with the new artsy theme. Shwapps, which is a Shwarma restaurant is also coming on board shortly.

In speaking with Jada Milne, who operates Arts With Jada at the Mill Street Mall (Unit 105), she said the pandemic was devastating to her business, which operates arts camps/classes, with 80 per cent of her revenue lost every time she was forced to shut down and switch to virtual programming. Now she’s been able to reopen camps and will be getting back to paint nights and art classes as Ontario moves to its next stage of reopening.

Milne told the Citizen, she’s very happy about the recent addition of art displays to the mall.

“I absolutely love it because it fits in with my business and even with some of the other businesses,” she noted. “We’re a very artsy town, so it’s just really reflecting Orangeville itself, I feel.”

The kids who enroll in Milne’s art classes also get more exposure to professional works now, creating inspiration for them, she added. 

Bruna Zarlenga, owner of the Village Refillery in the Mill Street Mall (Unit 109B), said she welcomes the recent changes and really enjoys looking at the local art.

“I think it’s awesome, I think he’s [Bobechko’s] being very creative and that this is a great step towards bringing more of a wider public and just more public in general, to the mall,”

Bobechko said he encourages everyone to stop by the soon to be ­– Old Mill Hub to enjoy all the latest changes and don’t miss out on the September 1 grand opening.

“Come unite the community back together and be a part of that positive change,” he enthused.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.