The Mill: A Student-Run Space for Music, Art, and Community
Amanda Lafferty ’21 is a Chicago native pursuing a major in urban studies and minors in art history and rhetoric, writing, and media studies. Lafferty works as a writing associate in Trinity’s Writing Center, hosts a bi-monthly radio show on WRTC, and serves as public relations coordinator for the student-run art and music space called The Mill. Below, Lafferty reflects on what makes The Mill so special to her:
Without a doubt, The Mill is my favorite place on campus.
It is much more than just the house at 79 Vernon Street (right). The Mill is a Trinity student organization that runs an art space and music venue on campus. Before I became part of The Mill, I remember thinking that as a lapsed musician and someone who is not particularly gifted in the visual arts, I was unsure how I could contribute to a student arts collective. But on the first weekend of my first year at Trinity, I attended a lively Mill concert and a general member meeting, and I realized that no matter your interests or capabilities, The Mill is welcoming to all.
Since my first year at Trinity, I’ve been a member of The Mill’s executive board. As a former first-year representative and booking events manager, and currently through my role as public relations coordinator, I’ve learned ways in which to encourage an artistic and inclusive community on Trinity’s campus. The Mill hosts a range of events that provide alternative programming that Trinity students can engage with and contribute to throughout the academic year.
Through booking and creating events that range from indie rock shows with local and Trinity-formed bands to student art galleries and even a build-a-band networking night, The Mill is multifaceted in the ways it provides the Trinity community with creative outlets outside of academics. You don’t have to study arts or music at Trinity to be a part of this organization. We encourage collaboration not only between our members but also through co-hosting events with other Trinity student organizations including La Voz Latina and Temple of Hip Hop.
Because of the eclectic personalities and interests of students in The Mill, it becomes a place where individuality and differences are welcomed; that openness is an integral aspect of why this organization feels like a second home to many.
Meg Smith ’21 and I started our friendship by attending events and meetings hosted by The Mill during our first year at Trinity, and would discuss ways we hoped to integrate our interests into the organization that would benefit all members, not just us. I was inspired by the dedication Meg put forth by holding various e-board roles throughout her time at Trinity and by spearheading cool artistic projects like painting a mural of the artist Frida Kahlo in one of the building’s study rooms.
Meg is from Portland, Oregon, and was experiencing some culture shock in New England at first. “I needed a space that was somewhere I could express my creativity and find my people,” she says. “I liked the concerts, the social gatherings they had, and I loved the space since day one. It’s one of my favorite physical spaces on campus.”
As an urban studies major, I’m fascinated by the way people interact with the built environment and how we attach meaning to space. People like Meg and our current president Caitlin Southwick ’20 emphasize that The Mill is a secure space where judgments are put aside, and instead, community is seen through the acceptance of each of our different perspectives and interests.
Beyond our concerts and formal events, Mill members make use of the house in many other ways, as well. Meg and Caitlin use the space for painting and visual arts, while I typically use the venue’s professional-grade sound system to practice my sets for my show at Trinity’s radio station, WRTC.
Caitlin says that The Mill encourages people to come as they are and stay true to themselves. “You don’t have to be a certain way,” she says. “I’ve always felt a lot of freedom at The Mill, and I can be weird or awkward and still be loved.”
Current Mill members undoubtedly contribute to the building’s lived-in atmosphere, but Trinity alumni add to the feeling of home and commitment to the organization, too. Witnessing a commitment from “Mill-umni” (we love to make up words)—through their visits at Homecoming and through the performances they give with bands either formed while at Trinity or after graduating—strengthens the meaning of the bonds created by the organization.
The greatest feeling is walking into a packed venue with faces you recognize and others you don’t, realizing that so many types of people have come to enjoy the event you and your fellow Mill members have spent so much time and energy putting together. Everyone who comes to one of our Saturday night concerts adds value to the experience.
Most of what makes The Mill such an important part of my life at Trinity are undoubtedly the people who run, take care of, and fill the storied house at 79 Vernon Street. The welcoming, creative spirit they bring makes this house a second home for me and my friends.
By Amanda Lafferty ’21