Bachelor of Media and Managing Director, The Mill
A career in music, art and drama starts with plans hatched over beers at uni.
Amber Cronin is busy.
Trying to catch her for an interview requires a couple of messages over facebook and then some follow-up texts to coordinate the time and place.
We settle on the new place along Leigh Street for lunch with the background beat of the late, great BB King warbling over the first question – "what did you want to do after finishing high school?"
"Oh – I haven't thought about that in so long," says Amber.
At just 25-years-of-age, Amber has lived what seems like a couple of different lifetimes already.
Out of school she took a gap year and travelled. Then she undertook a Bachelor of Media at University of Adelaide. While studying, Amber met Adam Cope (who was studying Engineering) and they decided that there was life beyond Uni Bar and so created Fourwords – a moving music night that eventually established a venue for touring acts and artists to exhibit in the South East corner of the city.
The experience Amber gained from running the Fourwords Warehouse led directly to a job offer from a music promoter in Melbourne and so she moved interstate for a year straight after graduating.
"I just couldn't see that in my future though," says Amber about the Melbourne job.
The rolling layers of Amber's career fold back over each other as our conversation attempts to reach the present day and her job as co-director of innovative arts hub, The Mill on Angas Street.
There's back and forth. Between cities, between friends, between ideas on what it was she wanted to do with her life.
"I heavily respect education," says Amber as a way of explaining her own evolution. "I love literature, I love reading and studying English as well as exploring other electives throughout Uni."
"I actually studied gen. music at The Con.," says Amber referring to the general interest music courses the Elder Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide offer.
"All of the greatest discussions and debates I've had, were all in general music courses," says Amber smiling broadly.
And this thread of self-initiated education is really where Amber saw her career take shape. If she wanted to know more about something, her tutors would give her some books to read. One tutor showed Amber his old copies of the Village Voice, flyers promoting beat poetry nights and music posters from Grenwich Village in the 1960s, all of which fuelled her ambition to create a similar sort of culture in Adelaide with Fourwords.
"The thing with Fourwords was, we got a lot of attention," says Amber about the various news articles written about the Warehouse at the time.
"When I was 21 and had my name on a rolling commercial lease in the city, I had to stop and think, 'what the hell am I doing with my life?'"
And yet the real source of frustration with the warehouse was that the lease was only ever on a month-by-month basis. This stopped Amber from offering artists and musicians a more stable environment.
"We had all of these artists coming forward with great projects, we were able to help out 52 Tuesdays with their filming – they filmed the warehouse scenes at our place – and we were able to facilitate lots of great projects and big scale stuff like set design and it was really good to see what artists needed."
And what they needed was something more stable.
So in 2013 Amber, in conjunction with Erin Fowler, signed another commercial lease for a warehouse-type space on Angas Street aimed at bringing together arts practitioners from every imaginable background to work alongside one another under one roof.
"We started a Facebook thing, just asking for people to come forward if they were interested in sub-leasing some space," says Amber. "And by the end of that week Erin and I were sitting in this dirty, blue-carpeted, gross, 1980s, terrible Rexel Electrical Warehouse-gutted-building and we were at 90% capacity, thinking…. 'sh*t we've got to get these people in this space that we haven't started renovating!"
And that was it. The Mill has stayed at over 90% capacity since opening. It houses bespoke shoe-makers, art exhibitions, the headquarters of Adelaide fashion and jewelry label Naomi Murrell as well as a completely analogue photographic studio complete with its own dark room. And that's just to name a few.
The horrible blue carpets may be gone now and the memory of that first dilapidated warehouse faded, however the people and the collaborations that have lead Amber to now are still as bright as ever in her mind.Bachelor of Media
The Mill: once home to horrible blue carpets, now a thriving haven of artistic activity.
We started a Facebook thing… and by the end of that week, Erin and I were sitting in this dirty, blue-carpeted, gross, 1980s, terrible warehouse and we were at 90% capacity, thinking, we haven't started renovating.
I heavily respect education… All the greatest discussions and debates I've had were in general music courses (at uni).