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Canton native wins prestigious architecture award


CANTON — From an abandoned house to an award-winning outdoor theater, Matthew L. Mazzotta’s Open House project in York, Ala., is not only treasured by the community, but has also gained respect and appreciation by some of the world’s renowned architects.

Mr. Mazzotta, a Canton native, began the community art project in 2011 after the Coleman Center for the Arts in York offered to pay him.

The masterpiece he ended up with, Open House, is the remains of an abandoned house that he transformed into a performance space with seating. The finished project looks like a small, red house, but it unfolds into rows of benches for an audience.

Mr. Mazzotta’s Open House has won several awards since its completion, including the Great Places Award for place design from the Environmental Design Research Association, the Architect’s Newspaper’s Best of Design Award, the International Award of Design Excellence from Azure Magazine and the Individual Artist Award from the Santo Foundation.

Yet, the most prestigious award he’s won so far is the jury’s choice Architizer A+ Award for Architecture and Urban Transformation.

Mr. Mazzota submitted applied for the award in January and learned in April that he won it. He’ll be honored at the Architizer A+ Awards Gala at Highline Stages in New York City May 15.

“This is a very prestigious and private gala in New York City,” Mr. Mazzotta said. “This award had applicants from over 100 different countries.”

Mr. Mazzotta said the jury that selected his project included famous architects such as Elizabeth Diller of Diller, Scofidio and Renfro in New York City and Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design for New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“When I started, I just wanted to do something with the community,” Mr. Mazzota said. “I mean, I thought the project was awesome, but I had no idea it would win an award like this one.”

Mr. Mazzota said most winners of the Architizer A+ Awards are popular architects or architect firms.

“I’m an artist and this is an architecture award,” he said. “It’s putting me on the map. This was not in my view, but it’s happened and it’s kind of amazing.”

Mr. Mazzota said that since finishing the project he’s been interviewed by national news networks and The Huffington Post, and featured in several prominent U.S. magazines.

He said the publicity has brought interest to the small town of 2,000 where the Open House was built.

“Its essence resonated across the world,” he said. “An abandoned or broken house can be transformed into a public good, and then there’s a celebration that follows.”

Mr. Mazzota said one of his friends from Canton, Cory H. Vinyard, is a carpenter who helped him with the Open House project and often travels with Mr. Mazzota to help with his art projects, sometimes overseas.

Mr. Mazzota said he’s participated in several talks and symposiums since completing Open House. He’ll speak during the Open Engagement 2014 at the Queens Museum May 18, and will be part of panel discussions during the Americans for the Arts Conference in Nashville, Tenn., June 13 and 14.

He’s now in preliminary stages of two more public art projects, one in Albuquerque, N.M., and one in Cambridge, Mass.

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