Lyons, Nebraska Storefront Theater Honored with Public Art Network Year in Review Award - Americans For The Arts recognizes 2015 Outstanding Public Arts Projects

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John Crabtree,, (402) 687-2103 ext. 1010

WASHINGTON, DC, June 17, 2016 - The Storefront Theater located in Lyons, NE (population 851), a project of the Center for Rural Affairs has been selected and recognized as part of the Americans for the Arts 2016 Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. The works were chosen from 260 entries across the country and recognized today at Americans for the Arts’ 2016 Annual Convention in Boston.

The Lyons Storefront Theater, one of 38 outstanding public art projects honored today, is a site-specific community artwork developed by the Center for Rural Affairs and artist Matthew Mazzotta from the stories of Lyon’s residents, and built by Lyons’s skilled craftspeople and community volunteers during the summer and fall of 2015.
The Storefront Theater is an outdoor movie theater that uses a formerly empty storefront on Main Street as its site. What looks like an ordinary storefront facade, actually opens up and folds down over the sidewalk onto Main Street. The front of the building has been modified with two hydraulic pump arms so that the awning and false front of the building are one unit and can fold down over the sidewalk with the push of a button.  Cushioned bleacher seats (seating up to 80 people) pull out from inside the structure for people to sit and watch a performance or a movie on the other side of the street, making Main Street into an outdoor Storefront Theater.
"Too often we think that you have to go to the big city to get your arts and culture fix. This project is about demonstrating that we can and do have interesting arts and cultural infrastructure in small towns,” said Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director Brian Depew. “If we can do this in Lyons, Nebraska, it can be done anywhere.”
The idea was born from the communities’ interest in revitalizing the downtown core of this 850-person town. Both the seats and the screen can retract and disappear when not in use giving the impression that there is nothing unusual about the space, with only the word of mouth accounts to keep people interested.
Storefront Theater is part of the Byway of Art project, a network of four community-specific artworks in northeastern Nebraska. The regional project is a collaborative effort between the communities of Decatur, Lyons, Macy, and Oakland, and the Center for Rural Affairs, and is made possible with funding from ArtPlace America
“These Public Art Network Year in Review selections illustrate that public art has the power to enhance our lives on a scale that little else can. Whether subtly beautiful or vibrantly jolting, a public artwork has the singular ability to make citizens going about everyday business stop, think, and through the power of art appreciate a moment, no matter how brief,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “I congratulate the artists and commissioning groups for these community treasures, and I look forward to honoring more great works in the years to come.”
Interest in Lyons and in surrounding communities, in utilizing the theater is growing. During the summer of 2016 the theater will feature a play, at least one music concert, and video game nights as well as films and documentaries. This past fall local filmmaker Bill Hedges used the theater to debut his film "Decades," a documentary about the history of Lyons since the 1860’s. The film featured re-enactments of different events and time periods and was shot in Lyons last summer.
For photos of the Lyons Storefront Theater visit:
In addition to the exciting news of being recognized by the Americans for the Arts, the Center for Rural Affairs was recently contacted by an international, award winning filmmaker who plans to come to Lyons in August 2016 to do a short documentary on the project. This is a great opportunity to showcase not only the theater, but the community of Lyons as well.
The 2016 PAN Year in Review jurors were Lucas Antony Cowan, Public Art Curator of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston; Constance Y. White, Lead Creative of SLDcreative in Dallas, Texas; and Franka Diehnelt, Co-owner of merge conceptual design in Santa Monica, California.
The 38 public art works selected for the PAN Year in Review can be seen on this page. The presentation, which includes photos and descriptions of these works, are available for purchase through the Americans for the Arts store.

The Public Art Network (PAN), a program of Americans for the Arts, is designed to provide services to the diverse field of public art and to develop strategies and tools to improve communities through public art. The network’s constituents are public art professionals, visual artists, design professionals, and communities and organizations planning public art projects and programs.

Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, it has a record of more than 50 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at

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