That’s when Art at the Mill opens.
Details: Millwood, Va.
Over three weekends, more than a thousand original artworks go on display, by more than 300 artists who have painted, sculpted, carved, shaped or otherwise created works in oil, watercolor, stained glass, pottery, wood and other media.
Last November, I headed south to join Washington friends who routinely meet in the Shenandoah Valley town for a weekend excursion to picnic, buy art and hang out.
Once I got off Interstate 66 and started passing signs for farms and wineries, I felt the grit and cares of city life start to wash away. When I turned down a two-lane road and heard the crunch of gravel under my tires as I pulled into the mill’s parking area, the transformation was complete. I had arrived in “the country.”
I entered the cool stone-walled relic, where several friends and other potential buyers were already, well, milling around, crisscrossing the worn wooden floorboards and stepping up planked stairs to walkways surrounding the grinding equipment.
Pieces of framed art, pottery and sculpture were on display everywhere. On standing easels. On stone walls between windows. On wooden benches and atop barrels. On temporary walls upstairs.
The sun beamed in from wood-paned windows on all sides, randomly spotlighting the floor and walls of the structure, which was built by Hessian prisoners of the Revolutionary War, with the help, many presume, of local slaves.
One friend had already completed her purchase. “Let me show you what I bought,” she said, pulling open the tape on her small brown paper package to show me a still life with apples. The next time I saw it, it was hanging in the kitchen of her new apartment in Adams Morgan, and I was coveting it.
The mill’s second floor had the feel of “Gallery of the Louvre,” the Samuel F.B. Morse painting depicting framed art hanging floor to ceiling, filling every possible space.
But here and there, empty nails indicated where the paintings had been removed for purchase. Throughout the show, Snow Fielding, a local artist and volunteer who has been hanging the show’s pieces for about 15 years, rearranged and filled the spaces.
Fielding also happens to own the sister mill down the road, at Carter Hall, which landowner Nathaniel Burwell had built when the commercial mill got so busy that it couldn’t process all the grain necessary to serve his 5,000-acre property. The other partner in the Burwell-Morgan business partnership was Daniel Morgan, a successful general who had served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War.