What the heck is Heck House? Indie performance venue gains following during pandemic

heck house
Heck House is hosting an outdoor concert Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. (Photo by Paula Novelle)

Following in the footsteps of spaces like Eyedrum and the Bakery, another addition to Atlanta’s proud tradition of independent multimedia art venues recently entered the scene. Art lover and entrepreneur Paula Nouvelle’s indie event space Heck House opened its doors in Scottdale two years ago and now showcases art, hosts workshops and welcomes creators of all stripes. Nouvelle joined “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes and board member and puppet artist Heidi Carpenter to share about the history of Heck House.

The primary impetus driving Nouvelle to create a new art space came from recognizing the great challenge of pursuing a life in art. “I saw the dramatic changes in how artists struggle to afford things and how things get really expensive in Atlanta. So my main goal for this as a non-profit was to make art affordable for people to do, so it’s not an expensive hobby,” said Nouvelle. She added, “Also, it’s really for mental health. If we did what we loved, we’d be more productive and happier.”

The building that now calls itself Heck House was built in 1941. When Nouvelle purchased it, she took on the fixer-upper with gusto, refurbishing the inside while retaining original structures and even paintwork. The venue features outdoor performance spaces, a conference room, a guest/green room and various lounge-able porches and pavilions. Nouvelle, who is hearing impaired, brought in local artist Jert to paint a mural incorporating American Sign Language on its wall. 

Heidi Carpenter met Nouvelle in the local puppetry scene, of which Nouvelle was a frequent audience fixture. One day, Carpenter happened to drive by the house under renovation, discovered it now belonged to her friend and had to get involved. “I messaged her and said, ‘I want to come see what you’re doing, and can I help?’ And I started showing up and painting things, and she said, ‘Hey, you want to be on the board?’” recounted Carpenter. 

Now, Carpenter assists in grant applications and organizing events at Heck House while also creating all manner of puppetry like sock puppets, shadow puppets and something called “crankies.” “A cranky is just a scroll of paper that you decorate and color and make art on,” said Carpenter. “Then you scroll it slowly through to a song or to a poem, and you can even have shadow puppets behind a cranky. So it’s an art form that a lot of people are unfamiliar with.”

Visitors to Heck House can expect outdoor concerts featuring local indie bands, drag shows, puppet shows, workshops and a reliably goofy, irreverent and always welcoming atmosphere. More on this new feather in Atlanta’s cap, including an event calendar, can be found at www.heck.house