Blue room

Asa Ana, an artist, is inside the blue room at ArtHouse6, 126 Walnut St., in downtown Johnstown. The room is a representation of his favorite poem “Design” by Billy Collins.

Artist Asa Ana is living inside a poem in Johnstown and plans to open it for visitors to stay for a night.

Ana is an artist in residency at ArtHouse6, 126 Walnut St., where he is working on a permanent art installation he titled “Stanza in Blue.”

For that project, he is transforming a traditional bedroom into a living poem by designing, sculpting and painting all parts of the room to represent each stanza of the poem “Design” by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

In Italian, Stanza means “room,” Ana said. And the sky-blue theme of his installation reflects what Scottish and Irish folklore call a “thin place” where the veil between heaven and earth seems to grow translucent, he said.

Ana said Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and northern Virginia are target areas.

“We want to market to those who want romantic experience or be immersed in an artistic experience,” he said.

Ana said he plans to open it in six months. By that time, he said he hopes a COVID-19 vaccine will be available.  

Promoting the arts

The region’s tourism agency, Visit Johnstown, is encouraging more such projects in the arts as well as outdoor recreation to attract visitors and revenue for local small businesses after COVID-19 lessens.

With a $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, Visit Johnstown has created the Cambria County Destination Recovery Marketing Program.

Through that program, businesses can apply for up to $7,000 to market their businesses and the region’s assets.

CFA President Mike Kane said that he is grateful for the partnership with Visit Johnstown to distribute grants for small businesses to draw visitors.

“The intent of this (marketing grant program) is to provide support for businesses to develop avenues to increase revenues and keep their businesses open and their people employed,” Kane said. 

Kane said leaders in Johnstown are marketing the city as a mountain town because of its outdoor attractions, but Kane also stressed that the effort needs amenities such as Ana’s project. 

“When people come into town they have whitewater, hiking trails and other outdoor attractions. But at the same time, one of the things we’ve learned is there are also amenities that people look for that might be restaurants, music, art spaces or galleries,” he said. 

“So they are all tied in together from a conceptual standpoint and a practical standpoint because that is people’s behavior pattern when they come into a community.” 


Russ O’Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 270-4449. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.

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