An Unconventional Floor Show at The Old Mill Art Studio
One of my favorite places in the Adirondacks is The Old Mill Bed and Breakfast and Art Studio in Elizabethtown. I first saw The Mill about 16 years ago when I joined our regional bed and breakfast association and met Mill owners Bruce and Beki Pushee. I have been in love with their home (which is in the bed and breakfast) and the outbuilding Mill Art Studio ever since. I have performed live theatre in The Mill, been to art exhibits there, benefits, concerts, and other events in this gorgeous and inspiring space.
In fact, I had just finished a performance of Agnes of God under its roof when Hurricane Irene struck in late August, 2011. The performance and exhibit space of the Mill remained intact after the destructive wave of storm slapped the North Country. Not so lucky were the Mill owners, Bruce and Beki. Their home and bed and breakfast were inundated with 3 feet of water—streaming through the first floor of their residence.
On day two after the storm I was helping out at the house with other friends, moving furniture and scraping mud out of floors. On day three I helped salvage art pieces from Beki's office studio moving them out of the house and onto a tarp on the Mill Art Studio floor to dry out.
Months have passed and the Old Mill owners are finally getting their lives back to normal, more or less. They've been concentrating on the house and had not been in the Art Studio recently. I had reason to wander in and there was Beki's artwork still on the tarp on the floor where we had carefully placed it all. It was a heart-wrenching moment.
The Old Mill Art instruction colony was founded by Wayman Adams, arguably the nation's foremost portraitist (at least that's what the Indianapolis Star called him in 1957). Beki Pushee came to the Mill as an art student in 1960 and never left. She married S. Ralph Maurello, who was the art colony director at that time, and they purchased the Old Mill the following year from painter/instructor E. StanleyTurnbull. The art instruction continued for another seven years.
Since then, the Mill property has served many functions. In 1989, Beki and husband Bruce turned the house and outbuildings into a bed and breakfast and a part-time home for Meadowmount music students. The bed and breakfast has operated continuously until this past summer when Irene stormed through.
Under the stewardship of Bruce and Beki, the Old Mill Art Studio has been home to various art exhibits, painting classes, benefits, concerts, lectures, live theatre, and even exercise classes. And always, the portraits, created by both instructors and their students, have watched it all from their wooden eaves, nooks and crannies as well as from more traditional art exhibit wall space. And we have watched and enjoyed them as well. Mother Nature hit the property and its owners hard so I am not sure what the future will hold for this incredible, awe-inspiring structure.
The bed and breakfast has not reopened yet but whatever the future brings, the owners of the Old Mill are always happy to share the history of the place and the masters who worked there with like-minded folks. So if art history interests you, feel free to look them up if you're in the area.
--Kathleen Recchia has been enjoying the arts in the Adirondacks for about 20 years—both as observer and participant (acting, directing, and producing). She also enjoys cross-country skiing, juggling, and hosting visitors to the area at her own bed and breakfast in Jay.