Heck House offers a heck of a lot of funky music and art in Scottdale

Colorful venue in gritty locale gives artists, hipsters, a destination

There’s a bit of Howard Finster in the world of Paula Novelle.

Every inch of the Heck House, her Scottdale gathering place, is glorified with found objects and artfully re-used debris, in the same way that Finster, the late North Georgia folk artist, decorated his Summerville property.

An outdoor dining table is a rescued lane from a bowling alley, perched on top of three painted radiators.

A dog drinking station is made from an old commode. A two-headed mannequin guards the front door.

Her little shotgun house is also decorated with art from many creative types who come to the Heck House, either for camaraderie, or to sell their work, or for parties or concerts. They are also skilled at the recycling game.

Karen Sarles of Frostburg, Maryland, created a stained-glass mandala out of a bicycle wheel. L.S. Lewis turned a wooden cable spool into a free-form rabbit, and Preston Woodruff made a bartending robot with dryer-hose arms.

So, what the heck is the Heck House? Wedged between an auto salvage shop and a tattoo parlor, it’s a free-form art environment by the railroad tracks.

It’s a non-profit funky events facility, a music venue and a gallery. It’s also Novelle’s home. She has hosted a wedding, a religious retreat, numerous concerts, standup comedy, a puppet show for children and a burlesque revue.

A recent evening show included a unique performer named Sass Parilla, the Singing Gorilla — a musician in a jumpsuit and ape mask, singing, and playing the string bass.

Sass sang “Maybelline” on an outdoor stage to an audience sitting at picnic tables and in folding chairs, as a smoky fire pit near the refreshment tent kept visitors warm.

He opened for the Possum Kingdom Ramblers, a band that features ukulele, guitar, musical saw and electric rake. Arranged in front of a wall-sized mural of a bright-red female demon, they performed the theme from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and an acoustic version of “Whip It” by Devo.

Credit: Ricky Zero

Credit: Ricky Zero

Ricky Zero, the boss Possum, said later they loved playing at the Heck House. “You might have noticed we are a little bit of a quirky band. We love doing things that are not typical.”

Zero said his band turned their tips over to the Heck House. Why? “We want to support the arts in Atlanta.”

This art house sprang from the brain of Novelle, 50, who grew up on a dairy farm outside Newnan, and trapped possums and raccoons to sell for their skins.

When she was two years old her parents became aware that she was profoundly deaf. Until then, she said, they thought she was simply slow. She didn’t learn sign language, but instead developed skill at reading lips.

Novelle, a solidly-built ball of energy with short hair and a bright smile, describes herself as a bit of a hellion, who frequently skipped school to drive up to Atlanta to hang out in Little Five Points and go to punk music shows.

“My mother used to say don’t drive out of the city limits, but she didn’t say which city,” she joked, sitting among the stripped walls and reclaimed furniture at her colorful bungalow. Her eager-to-please American bulldog, DuBois, roamed the kitchen.

Novelle attended West Georgia College in Carrollton until she was invited to leave. She transferred to Georgia Perimeter College, was briefly married, lived in Decatur and worked in the film industry as a production assistant.

She bought the down-at-the-heels Scottdale property in 2017 for $100,000. It was a rooming house at the time, with a homeless person living in the tool shed, she said. Her former neighbor Linda Lemaire describes the place in harsher terms. “It was a crackhouse,” said Lemaire.

Novelle gutted the structure, tearing out walls and stripping off sheet rock to reveal wood paneling below.

She gathered like-minded friends to decorate the exterior, holding mural-painting parties under the direction of visual artists.

The house earned non-profit status in February 2019, but it has been fairly light on profits all along. On Halloween, Novelle hosted a “PUNKoween” evening, with a costume contest and seven bands.

The tips and donations totaled about $500, which worked out to $50 a band, better known as gas money. She hopes to learn about grant-writing, and seek sponsorships, to make sure musicians and artists get paid.

Credit: Danny Hunter

Credit: Danny Hunter

Dawn Erich, who works building super-hero costumes in the film industry, staged her wedding to Nicholas Payne at the Heck House, with fire dancers, stilt-walkers and a wild goth Victorian theme.

“It was magical,” said Erich, who very much appreciates Novelle’s support for local artists and the LGBTQ community.

Novelle earns some extra cash for herself helping a friend, Zed Yu, with his small mortgage business. In turn, Yu helps out at Heck House events.

“Her mind is constantly churning,” said Yu, “so if you are lazy you have to pick up the pace.”

Coming up this season: A last-minute Krampus party and an art consignment sale.

Most Heck House events are outdoors, and Novelle said the house has events booked through to Christmas. She plans to keep hosting shows as long as the weather is tolerable.

“Paula is a party animal,” said Yu. “The joke is, she likes parties so much, she decided to bring the parties back home. Sometimes if people want to stay longer after an event, Paula will just lock the door and go to bed and let them turn off the lights.”


IF YOU GO

Heck House, a non-profit venue for music, art happenings, private parties and other gatherings, is located at 3498 East Ponce de Leon Ave. in Scottdale. Events are listed on the calendar at heck.house. Live-in manager Paula Novelle is hearing impaired and is best reached by email at fatdeaf1@heck.house or by text at 678-633-0900.