“Every single person that we have here, we care about. We know their name, what they do, and what kind of things they create.” Says Rex Hausmann about Hausmann Millworks: A Creative Community. According to him, the Mill itself, with newly modeled studios and offices, is not the focus.
“We hope that someone can walk through the front door and know exactly where they are. This is about art. This is about community.” A stroll down one of the hallways reveals individual studios and workspaces, each encapsulating the various artists’ unique stories.
Co-operator of Hausmann Millworks and Resident Artist Rex Hausmann speaks about the history of their family business, and the development of an artist community within Alta Vista neighborhood. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
But one story ties them all together: That of the Hausmann family. “For thirty years, we ran an architectural woodworking business here.” Says Gene Hausmann, father of brothers Rex and Eric. Hausmann Millworks produced woodworking for buildings around the world, from the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the San Antonio Public Library.
“Rex and I grew up here,” says Eric, “sweeping sawdust and learning how to finish cabinets.” The Millworks operated for over thirty years, an integral part of San Antonio’s manufacturing industry. However, the Mill closed around 2009, a common story with manufacturing during the recession. “This place came out of a very hard time in the economy. It really is a Phoenix rising story.”
Co-operator of Hausmann Millworks Eric Hausmann shares stories of the millworks growing up as a child. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
The Hausmann family realized that space, something the Mill had in abundance (over 45,000 sq. ft.) was an asset. Several craftsman asked if they could set up shop. Gene didn’t think much of it until he realized it could be a real business venture. “God seemed to be saying, ‘Hey Dummy,’ it was a real opportunity.” Gene recalls. Before he knew it, the family business was given new life.
“It was empty and now it’s just full of life.”
“What used to be sawdust turned into paint, all over the floors and walls.” Says Eric. As the community grew, the whole family was put to work managing this newest chapter in the business’s story. Eric’s wife, Dacia, handles the website and digital marketing and recalls the radical transformation of the space, “It was empty and now it’s just full of life.”
Rene, Rex and Eric’s mother, has built up the business around a philosophy she calls ‘PAVE.’ It stands for People, Access, Vision, and Encouragement. “There are people here for you to be around. It gives you access to people who that you may never have been able to encounter. There’s vision, helping people to think about going to the next level. And just plain encouragement.” The encouragement often comes in the form of events and seminars organized by Rex, who is described as the ‘Artist Wrangler.’
Rene explains that people who pursue higher education in the arts often feel that they do not have a clear path in life. She hopes that the Millworks can offer creatives a sense of clarity. “Wouldn’t it be great if an artist could walk through that door and have the mindset that they are going to their job?”
Many have walked through that door with just that mindset. The community at Hausmann has grown so diverse that the family has a hard time naming all the disciplines represented. “We have a cellist,” says Rene. “Graphic designers,” adds Rex. “We have a Brazilian Capoeira dance troupe,” says Eric, “We’ve had blacksmiths and fashion designers.”
Bits and Spurs owner Gary Williamson designs and manipulates steel to create custom spurs at the Hausmann Millworks. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Their differences don’t isolate the artists, rather it becomes a cross-pollination of ideas and creativity. “You get advice from all kinds of people,” says Gene, “because there really is a community here.” That sense of connection really speaks to the larger area the Millworks is in.
“We’re five minutes from everything,” says Gene, “From the schools, museums, the performing arts, The Pearl.” Eric and Dacia relocated from Houston to Downtown San Antonio and haven’t looked back.
“There are lots of coffee shops and local restaurants in this area,” Dacia explains, “The houses are incredible 1920’s cottages that have been restored.”
Artist Pamela Taylor poses for a portrait in front of her artwork at the Hausmann Millworks. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“Downtown is completely regenerating,” Gene observes. Not unlike Hausmann Millworks. “It’s a great morph. Because what we were doing before was creative as well.” The community they’ve built is not an end to the old business, but a continuation.
“That’s why on our wall outside it says Grow Where You Are Planted,” Eric explains, “Because we have grown. And people that come here can grow too.”