A new art space will soon be in Hillsborough at a prominent historical location.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners authorized the Eno River Mill Arts Project on Tuesday. The Orange County Arts Commission will rent space from Hedgehog Holdings, who manages the mill, and use the it as 13 move-in artist studio spaces. Artists would in turn rent the space from the county and use it as a creative, storage, and display area.

The goal of the partnership is to provide low-cost access to local artists while transforming the mill into an arts destination and economic asset for Hillsborough and the county.

Arts Commission Director Katie Murray spoke to the board about how the space should immediately help the county economically.

“It’s going to keep that rental money here locally,” she said. “Right now our artists who need studio space go outside of Orange County to get it with the exception of maybe less than half-dozen options. It’s going to provide more patrons for businesses, especially during receptions or openings.”

Fred Joiner, the poet laureate for the Town of Carrboro, voiced his support of the project to the board. He said a space like this helps a community build resilience and gives people an outlet not just for creativity but also for dealing with personal adversity.

“I wouldn’t be the artist I am today if I didn’t have these types of spaces provided for me. [My career] doesn’t happen without having these kinds of spaces to help me develop and grow as an artist.”

If it successfully rents the studio space, the Orange County Arts Commission plans to enact two additional phases of partnership with the Eno River Mill. The next steps would be creating a large exhibit area and a performance arts space within the mill while aligning with Hedgehog Holdings’ construction of apartments at the mill that could offer reduced rent for artists using the studio.

Frank Gailor, a managing member of Hedgehog Holdings, expressed his excitement for the project and evoked a phrase from the book Death and Life of Great American Cities.

“New ideas need old buildings,” said Gailor. “This is an old building that needs creative people. We’re excited with the opportunity presented to work with these delightful, enthusiastic people whose energy will help us compound our efforts.”

With the board’s unanimous approval on Tuesday, the Eno River Mill Arts Project will now move forward with the Arts Commission preparing to search for tenants.

Photo via Eno River Mill.