A 2010 fire damaged—and ignited a new purpose in—a pre–Revolutionary War building in Frederick, Maryland’s downtown historic district. After the fire, the structure, a factory turned warehouse, sat vacant for six years. It still lacks a roof, doors, and windows—but it’s been turned into a temporary performance space for free public events. Virginia-based artist, ecologist, and urbanist Heather Clark approached the building’s owner, a firm that manufactures sewer pipes, to suggest the repurposing.

Dubbed Sky Stage, the venue seats140 people under the sky and among trees. Suggestions for programming come from the public; the space has hosted drama, music, dance, children’s stories, art classes, and a variety of lectures and films. Sky Stage’s centerpiece is a digitally designed two-story wooden sculpture created by Clark in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Digital Structures research group. Drought-resistant plants weave through the sculpture’s intricate latticework and the doorways and windows of the stone structure. The double spiral helix of sedum plants is irrigated by rainwater collected from an adjacent roof.

City workers, local contractors, and other businesses volunteered time and support for the project, which is operated by the Frederick Arts Council and AmeriCorps. Sky Stage was open to the public through July 2017.

Jen Dolen is a photographer, and is on the editorial team for Public Art Review.

From Public Art Review #56, where this article originally appeared in Projects We Love as “Sky Stage.”