White Brings Voice Back to Old House

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February 22nd, 2013

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Omaha has spent much of the past decade revitalizing its historic neighborhoods, breathing life back into buildings and communities of old and in the process, reconnecting with generations past. But for every new building or revitalized structure, another falls further into disrepair, deteriorating to the point where it becomes a lost cause, its fate sealed into being bulldozed, its story forgotten and its voice forever silenced. But thanks to local artist Watie White, one old home has been granted a stay of execution so that he may retell its story one last time.

“A lot of this project is based around this metaphor of finding great value in something that people assume has no value or as a society we have assessed no value to it.”
White has taken the house, located in north Omaha at 2424 Emmet Street, and placed paintings in each of its windows, retelling the stories of lives that once lived in it. Stories are reflect those of any house if houses could talk. Some are from happier times, others from sad or tumultuous times. But White says no matter the mood of the stories, but the showcase of how similar our stories can sometimes be.

White installed paintings in the house's windows to tell the story of its past.

White installed paintings in the house’s windows to tell the story of its past.

“They walk around and they feel a sort of holistic understanding of lives that were lived in connection to this physical structure and connection to this physical environment and that this physical environment and this structure is not so different from all the ones that they pass by that they don’t look into, that they don’t see. And it can spark that curiosity in people that the world is a vast and fascinating place.”

The structure is set to be demolished rebuilt by Habitat for Humanity sometime in mid to late March so a new house may begin its story for another family. Until then White hopes to keep the paintings up, occasionally leading discussions at the house about the project and they stories it tells. But is White trying to delay the destruction just a little while longer?

“(laughs) I actually am…. perhaps get a little bit of a waiver for it.”

For now the building stands for anyone to walk by and take in. White hopes to lead more discussions in the future. For information on the project, you can visit watiewhite.com

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