The Open House- York, AL

More from York AL

Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Housing, Neighborhood improvement
  • Engagement Approaches Community conversations/dialogues, Community meetings (townhalls, forums, etc), Engagement through art, Neighborhood events/ activities
Project Description

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Open House


The small town of York, Alabama has long been dealing with issues of blight and dwindling population. The residents in this low-income area were unhappy about the abandoned and crumbling homes, as they acted as a metaphor for the state of the community. Attempts were made to assemble residents for a discussion on how to solve these issues, but it became clear that there was no convenient meeting space for this discussion to occur. That’s when the nearby Coleman Center for the Arts got involved.  


  • To act as an affordable, public gathering space for the residents of York; 
  • To address the issue of blight facing the community by replacing an eyesore with art; 
  • To act as a daily reminder to encourage residents to think outside the box and invite them to view their surroundings with multiple perspectives; and
  • To initiate conversation and increase cooperation and engagement.  

Project Summary:  

Sponsored by the Coleman Center for the Arts, placemaking artist Mathew Mazzotta was invited to York to facilitate a series of community dialogues. Mazzotta invited residents to create “living rooms” in public spaces. Residents brought in couches, rugs, and artifacts from their homes to fashion “living rooms” on sidewalks and in parking lots. This atmosphere helped residents feel more comfortable about voicing their opinions, hopes, and desires for the community. Through these Living Room dialogues, the idea for the Open House was born.   

Built on the site of an abandoned home, the Open House is a collapsible building shaped like a house which can be transformed into an open-air public gathering space. When in use, the house unfurls to reveal several rows of seating and an open area which can be used for performances, film screenings, or other gatherings. The Open House cannot be opened by one person- it requires a minimum of four people to complete the task, relying on community and cooperation to function. Use of the Open House is free and available to anyone.   

Engagement Strategies:  

  • Mazzotta’s Living Room Dialogues were an innovative strategy to engage the residents of York and get them communicating.  
  • The cross-sector collaboration between the Coleman Center for the Arts and the Community of York provided multiple entry points for those interested in the project.


  • Since the opening, the Open House has been utilized by the residents of York as a location for film screenings, public meetings, parties and special occasions, family reunions, and more.  
  • The Open House has transformed a blighted property into one that is aesthetically pleasing while also honoring the property’s previous design and using reclaimed materials from the site.  
  • The Open House pays homage to the York of the past.  
  • Residents of York report satisfaction with having a space to gather as a community. 

Timeline of Project: Seven months
Initiator: The Coleman Center for the Arts, Artist Matthew Mazzotta, residents of York, Alabama
Number of People ServedThe Community of York, Alabama- Approx. 2,000 people
Media Coverage:
Arch Daily
Press Release
Artist Biography
The Renewal Project

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