A no-furniture policy on the first floor leaves room for the crowds to mingle uninhibited around the living room and kitchen, where business cards replace knickknacks and pricetags accompany the art on the walls.
The 20- and 30-
somethings who live, work and play at 116 E. King St. call it The Parliament, a name that might conjure images of British elites, but actually refers to the word meaning a group of owls.
Art and music lovers gather here at least once a month to absorb York's latest, most unlikely -- and, now, award-winning -- art show, put on by a seven-member board of non-artists
who have made it their mission to showcase local talent.
Parliament is the recipient of the 2012 Social Venture Challenge from YorIT, an award worth $5,000 that the group will use to swoop in and lift more artists out of anonymity.
YorIT is a York County Community Foundation group of philanthropists who reward creative ideas for attracting people and businesses downtown.
How it began: The Parliament got started in late 2010, when Brandon Carr and Alex Dwyer decided to leave big-city living behind and move back to their hometown. Strangers at the time, the two became roommates at 116 E. King St., a place they shared with a few artists.
"They wanted a place to showcase their work, and they didn't have a place," Dwyer, 22, said. "We wanted to make a spot where anybody could showcase themselves."
Within a month, the home was transformed into an art gallery, and life "exploded" out of the house, said Carr, a 23-year-old computer programmer. That first show would lead to regular shows corresponding with the city's First Friday initiative.
When the time came to disclose the new project to the home's owner, the 34-year-old landlord gave his enthusiastic blessing.
Josh Hankey said he hoped the grassroots arts movement would build momentum for the East King Street block, where he owns multiple properties. Eventually, he signed on to lend business expertise to the group.
Carr and Dwyer decided to get serious last summer. They started drafting plans for a nonprofit.
Since September, the group has worked with more than 100 artists, finding gigs for musicians and gallery space for visual artists. They'll use the YorIt award to expand that reach.
"When we first started, we didn't really know what we were doing," Dwyer said. "We just knew we wanted everybody to be a part of it."
If you go:
What: Poetry Night open mic
Where: The Parliament, 116 E. King St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Details: For more information about Parliament, call Alex Dwyer at (717) 881-6775.
-- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or email@example.com or on Twitter @ydcity.