Rooms to Let shifts from vacant homes to vacant storefronts in upcoming temporary art event

After taking 2020 off because of the coronavirus pandemic, Rooms to Let: CLE returns to Slavic Village this summer stronger that ever—this time with a full-blown arts celebration and some changes to the overall theme. The event happens July 10 and 11, but organizers are accepting applications from artists now.

This year, Rooms to Let will focus on creating art installations in historic buildings around East 55th Street and Broadway Avenue, as well as art projects in residents’ yards and a garden walk. Previous years have focuses on vacant homes, many of which were slated by the Cuyahoga Land Bank for demolition, around the neighborhood.

Slavic Village Development (SVD) is partnering with Garden Walk ClevelandBroadway School of Music and the Arts, and The Sculpture Center’s Crossroads project on this year's Rooms to Let.

An open call for artists to produce projects curated by Visit Arts CollectiveDana Depew, and Cleveland Print Room, runs through Wednesday, May 12.

East 55th & Broadway - Photo Bob Perkoski

Joe Linsky, director of neighborhood development for SVD, says they found that there are fewer houses vacant or slated for demolition now, so the organization decided to shift the focus to a neighborhood beautification effort that shows off the historic pre-World War I buildings around Broadway and East 55th.

“Broadway and 55th saw a lot of vacant storefronts, so we’re working with the owners and the landlords,” Linsky says of the shift. “The hope is there is interest in seeing the Broadway/55th intersection revived through the storefronts and nearby housing.”

Linsky says most of the building owners are open to interested tenants, although none are actively marketing the spaces. SVD will have a station at the event where visitors can learn more about the neighborhood, connect with SVD staff members, and find currently available opportunities.

Because these are active storefronts and yards, as opposed to houses slated for demolition, Linsky says the parameters for the artists works have changed to be more temporary and preserve the integrity of the buildings.

Linsky says there are seven vacant storefronts around the intersection—all built before World War I—including the SVD building (the Central United National Bank Building); the Viola Building; the Columbia Building; the Olympia Building; and Broadway Free Library and Hubcap Heaven in the Broadway Bank building.

“Even as you walk north and south on Broadway, most of these buildings were built around the same time,” says Linsky of the historic neighborhood. “There’s definitely a lot of history.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.