It used to be an eyesore. Now it’s a public space enjoyed by everyone.
The story begins in 2011 when a group of well-meaning citizens purchased an older bungalow in downtown York, Alabama with the intention of turning it into a daycare. Unfortunately they couldn’t afford the repairs and the structure fell into disrepair. It soon became an embarrassment to the city and to its neighbours.
Enter conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta and the Coleman Center for the Arts. The Coleman Center is a York, Alabama organization that uses art to spearhead social change and build local pride. It runs a spate of programs which partner the community with local and visiting artists. Mazzotta is a conceptual artist with a Masters of Science in Visual Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology specializing in public installations. The Centre reached out to the artist and presto, a project was born. Mazzotta and his volunteer army disassembled the old house and retrieved some elements before the city fire department it ablaze and finished the job. The materials he salvaged became the building blocks of a sculpture called Open House.
Think of Transformers, the toy not the movie. Open House looks like a standard house with windows, a door and a pitched roof. The pink siding comes from the original structure. But looks can be deceiving because with a few deft moves, well two hours of manual labour actually, the fully articulated structure unfolds into an open-air, 100-seat community theatre with raked seating. You can see the change below.
In keeping with the Coleman Center’s community-minded mandate no hydraulics are used to pull the piece apart and reassemble it. That’s the point. Open House is purposely designed to bring people together in a common purpose. It needs people power to pull it apart and put it together. Concealed compartments house the various tools and jacks need to complete the transformation. When it’s opened up it becomes a venue for musicians and community theatre. When it’s closed back up it resembles the original bungalow and reminds people of what was there before, a blighted property which was of no use to anyone. The local group Time Zone Band got things hopping at the site’s official opening. Months before it was a dead zone.