Hi. I'm Dee Briggs - the artist behind the House of Gold project. This house has a story to tell about its history and about our future. With the help of great friends, I painted the house gold, prior to demolition, hoping that it might encourage everyone to see the value in people and places - before they are gone. From the beginning I have seen the project as a metaphor for the lives of young people in my community and communities like it. Just yesterday 12/15/14 the body of an 18 year old boy was found, shot to death, about 8 blocks from the House of Gold site. If more people had seen the gold in that young boy - he, and so many before him, would still be here.
After making this web site and painting the house I couldn't bring myself to smash it into pieces - the way of a typical demolition. So I assembled a team and came up with a plan to demolish the house - gently - hoping to save as much of the material as possible. This is not the fastest, easiest or cheapest way to demolish a house - but I felt it was the right thing to do. With the help of 249 people, I raised over $30,000 on Kickstarter to support the project. I hired a professional demolition contractor based in the community to lead the heavy lifting. And then hired 7 of my neighbors to help me process, trim, de-nail, organize and store all of the material from the house. All told it took us 7 weeks to complete the gentle demolition.
This project has been a tremendous challenge and hugely rewarding. It created new friendships and professional relationships across the lines of generation, race, economics and gender. It created work for people who need to work and people who love to work. It gave an old house with a fantastic history a grand farewell and saved over 85% of the building material from the landfill. It helped people remember what the neighborhood was and imagine what it could be in the future. It got a lot of people in Wilkinsburg talking - about blight, taxes, jobs and art. And on the sunny days when we weren't freezing in the snow there was even some dancing.
One day during the beginning of the demolition, a boy about 12 who I'd seen around the neighborhood stopped me on the street and asked, "Why are you tearing down the House of Gold? I love that house." An opinion I am certain he didn't have before it was gold. I pointed to the houses around us - all broken down and boarded up - and said, "See all of those houses? They're all gold - on the inside. Just like you and me."