One third of York, Alabama’s families may live under the federal poverty line, but they do have one priceless community asset. The Open House, conceived by artist Matthew Mazzotta, was built from the ruins of an abandoned and dilapidated private home, and now “unfolds” from a compact, miniature house to serve as a theater.
In college, Mazzotta once drove a van through Chicago’s back alleys with his friends to pick up stray furniture and reassemble them as an open living room in a park at night. In the morning, he found that it had become a fixture for locals, who took pictures with the setup. Along a similar line of thinking, when the Coleman Center for the Arts invited Mazzotta to come down to Alabama, he invited community members to bring items from their living rooms and discuss what kind of spaces or art projects they’d like to see.
With input from the community and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Mazzotta eventually settled on building a floating theater out on the local Lake Louise. Those plans were dashed, however, when the city put up the body of water as collateral for a loan. Mazzotta thought fast, and decided to build the theater on an abandoned property instead.
The result is the Open House, an open-air theater that seats 100 people and took four months to build.
Mazzotta compares his project to “Stone Soup,” the fable of a hungry stranger who comes to town and starts boiling a pot of water, convincing everyone to chip in for a massive soupy potluck. “Stick your neck out far enough with something crazy, and people are willing to participate,” Mazzotta says.
Since, the theater has hosted several screenings, and in September, showed a video of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger while selling hamburgers next to the screen.