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Launch of Norristown Arts Hill Makes An Architect Smile

You can't help but like Doug Seiler, the tall, laid back architect with an easy smile and a boyish look (despite his less-than-full head of hair) who has been working in Norristown since 1998. He is a principal at Seiler + Drury; the firm is housed in a smart looking, quaint building on the corner of Swede and DeKalb Streets in the heart of the town.

Doug’s known for his love of Norristown, particularly the buildings of Norristown. He knows the history and quirks of many of the buildings and he’s been a piped piper for arts-based revitalization in the town for a long time.  Doug has been around as municipal managers and mayors have come and gone, through scandal and the rebuilding of local government.
He’s been lobbying for years for the county and municipality to convert the old County Prison that sits cattycorner from his office for use as a cultural arts center. While that plan remains a dream, Doug has not let that stop him from being involved in helping others see the possibilities in Norristown.  Leading the current charge, Doug serves as the President of the Norristown Art Council, an all volunteer group that a little more than a year ago decided to make something big happen.

Working with a wide range of people from all parts of the community, Doug was proud to see the recent launch of a new cultural district, the Norristown Arts Hill.  It started with a grand party where over 100 people filled the first floor of 401 DeKalb Street.  This is a building that a developer, Bob Kaufman, is hoping to transform into an arts building. The bare walls of the spacious, sunlit first floor were brought to life with the artwork of Norristown artists (one of them works as a Code Enforcement Officier for Norristown) and architectural drawings from students connected to Doug. Food and drink were provided by  Zone Catering, a local business owned by the same former professional football player who runs the concession stands at the Elmwood Park Zoo. Miss Justine and her ensemble filled the room with jazz and blues. And the people came. Politicians came including two county commissioners, two state legislators and most members of Norristown’s Municipal council. Together with event sponsors, they joined a room full of local residents and local business men and women.

The next day the community continued the celebration with a day long festival along two blocks of the new Norristown Arts Hill. A diverse crowd milled about, enjoying more than two dozen performance groups on four stages in two tents, engaging with street performers who wandered throughout the day, perusing and buying the many craft and arts on the street and enjoying some great food; sausage and peppers, grape leaves, lemonade, bar-b-que spare ribs and water ice.

Doug smiled at the opening reception, he smiled at the festival. In fact the whole cast of Norristown activists were smiling. The development of Norristown Arts Hill is a grassroots community effort and the Festival was the first product of this dedicated, diverse and feisty group. Now they move on to the work of sustainability. Starting this month Norristown Art Council will work on a plan to use the momentum generated at the Launch to propel the district forward.  And who knows, Doug may see that old prison become an art center sooner than he ever imagined.

For more information about Norristown Arts Hill contact:
Gabriela Prete
Business Development Coordinator
Norristown Municipality