Alabama Town Builds House That Turns Into Stage

By Lisa Battles on August 28, 2013 at 6:46 am CDT

Have you seen the video of the small, rosy pink house that folds out into a stage?

It's impressive enough when a community improvement project solves one local issue. To see a project creatively tackle four does nothing less than inspire, and that's the aim of this new public art installation in the small town of York, Ala. York's Coleman Center for the Arts and international artist Matthew Mazzotta partnered to create a public art installation in this town of about 3,000 people, which is roughly two hours southwest of Birmingham, Ala., and less than 10 minutes to the Mississippi/Alabama state line. For the initial community planning meeting in 2011, Mazzotta set up a cozy makeshift “living room” on a downtown street using couches and other appointments participants donated for the occasion. They enjoyed coffee, identified community issues and swapped ideas. They came up with an elegant solution aiming to solve four community problems:

  • Abandoned, dilapidated properties creating a blight downtown
  • Lack of adequate public spaces enabling residents to interact
  • Need for more arts experiences and events to foster neighborly bonds
  • Desire to attract more tourists who will help generate money for the cash-strapped city

The plan? Tear down one of the old, abandoned houses and salvage as many building materials as possible to construct in its place the new, Mazzotta-designed mini “house,” which folds out into seating for community events. Actually, the first concept was a similar project that would be built on the city's lake, but the site became entangled in city debt issues, so Mazzotta came up with plan B, which is now called “Open House.” Watch a video about the Open House project and process here. The project received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Visual Artists Network, York Drug, the City of York, the City of York Fire Department and individual donations. Programs at the venue are free for the public, so it's likely offering this will require ongoing support. Of course, everyone involved hopes for not only that, but for the venue to draw people from outside the community to visit, enjoy a show and patronize local businesses. Special thanks to Kelly Thorsby, president of the Elizabeth City Area (NC) Chamber of Commerce, who passed along the story and video link last week. It definitely lived up to her description of “just too cool.” You can read more about Open House on The Coleman Center for the Arts website.    

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