Located in historic Frederick, MD, Sky Stage transforms a burned building shell into a living sculpture and community performance space. This building suffered a devastating fire in 2010 and lost its roof and second story. It remained boarded until September 2016 when artist Heather Theresa Clark opened Sky Stage as a 140-person outdoor theater.
Ribbons of plants now wind, twist, and grow through the building’s doors and windows. Wooden scaffolding supports the spirals of plants. Rainwater is collected from a neighboring building’s roof and is stored in the sculpture’s bright yellow rain cistern, irrigating the drought-resistant sedum plants and native maple trees, and sustaining life in this once blighted building.
Sky Stage is by artist Heather Theresa Clark. The Frederick Arts Council, with support from AmeriCorps, operates the theater. Together they invite the local community to use Sky Stage for their own performances and activities, providing a public gathering space for those that may not otherwise have a venue to share their talent. Transforming this blighted building into a living public space has inspired the local community to perform and organize. The Frederick Arts Council and AmeriCorps facilitate local residents and community groups to run creative endeavors. Highlights of the season include concerts, literary nights, yoga, dance, STEAM events for kids, a summer free lunch and art program for low-income children, the RECLAIM Concert for Sexual Assault Awareness month, pop-up gallery space for the local children and artists, local film nights, a neighborhood peace concert, and children’s story time and visits by naturalists.
Sky Stage was conceived by artist Heather Theresa Clark out of a desire to create a large-scale transformative community art intervention in an underutilized space. Because boarded up buildings like this often sit for years due to lack of funding for redevelopment, Clark decided to create an art intervention that with limited funds could make a big impact on the community. At Sky Stage, the artwork is not just the living sculpture, but rather the overall transformation of the building and how the public uses the space.
Clark collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Digital Structures research group research group to computationally design and engineer the sculpture’s complex wooden lattice with custom geometry-generating algorithms. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Digital Structures research group works at the interface of architecture, structural engineering, and computation. They focus on the synthetic integration of creative and technical goals in the design and fabrication of buildings, bridges, and other large-scale structures. Digital Structures is particularly interested in how digital techniques and tools can play an unexpected, collaborative role in these processes.