From demolition to inspiration: Rooms to Let will transform soon-to-be-demolished homes into art

Turning demolition into inspiration, Northeast Ohio’s largest temporary art event will celebrate its fifth year this weekend in Slavic Village. Led by curators Dana Depew, Scott Pickering, and the Visit Arts Collective, Rooms to Let will transform a trio of properties slated for demolition into interactive public art installations—with the intention of lovingly honoring the condemned homes in a creative way before they’re leveled.

Hosmer House - Rooms To Let 2017This year's participating artists include Gina Washington, Chester Hopkins-Bey, Broadway School of Music and Arts, Liz Maugans, Zygote Press, and Soulcraft. Supported by a grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the event is hosted by Slavic Village Development.

Slated for noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29, Rooms to Let will also feature food and beer, live music, kids’ activities, and a Sunday-only market along with the art installations. Check-in for the free event will take place at the Lavender Garden (6520 Sebert Ave.), centrally located between the three transformed properties which can be found at 6806 Fleet Avenue, 6904 Fleet Ave, and 6720 Forman Avenue.

In keeping with tradition, the artists’ work is on display for one weekend only. However, the addition of a Better Block initiative will ensure this year’s event leaves a lasting impact on the neighborhood. On Friday, July 27, the Rooms to Let festivities will kick off with a pop-up block party (hosted in partnership between Slavic Village Development and Better Block Foundation).

Funded by the Cleveland Foundation, the project will empower members of the community to temporarily redesign public areas in the neighborhood into the places they’ve always wanted—such as a diner, mini-market, record store, and “parklets” (micro hangout nooks nestled into spaces the size of a parking spot).

According to Joe Linsky, SVD’s Community Engagement Coordinator, the easy-to-assemble CNC plywood furniture used for the neighborhood meal will be stored post-event and available for the nonprofit community group’s use in the future. In preparation for the Better Block pop-up, volunteers are helping with cleanup efforts aimed to enhance the curb appeal of storefronts and residences surrounding the intersection at Fleet Ave. and East 65th St.

Naji at the 2016 eventAnother new element of Rooms to Let this year will be the CAN'T Triennial, a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the high-profile CAN Triennial. With a slogan of “You can’t get rejected from CAN’T,” the effort is spearheaded by local artist Loren Naji, and designed to give exposure to Cleveland artists who weren’t chosen for CAN. (According to Naji, only one in five local artists who applied was accepted “into an exhibit intended to represent the Cleveland-area art scene,” which he found off-putting.)

“The idea took shape a few months ago, after I was rejected from the CAN Triennial,” says Naji. “CAN'T is meant to be a countershow, an underground thing. What a great opportunity, to take advantage of [exposure to] the thousands of people who come to Rooms to Let.”

As many as 150 artists’ works will be on display in a makeshift gallery inside the garage—or, as Naji calls it, the La Ga’ LLarage—of the Rooms to Let home that Scott Pickering is curating. “Loren is a wild, out-of-the box thinker and a really nice guy,” says Linsky.

Sounds like a perfect fit for this out-of-the-box event.

Check-in for this free event takes place at 6520 Sebert Avenue in the Slavic Village Lavender Garden. Parking is available on side streets and Fleet Ave.

Indigenous House - Rooms To Let 2017


Read more articles by Tricia Chaves.

Tricia Chaves is a 'hair raising reporter' who splits her time between writing and and her Thousand Locks Charity project to increase awareness about hair donation among stylists and improve the availability of free wigs for women and kids with cancer. A former style and beauty editor, these days she's more likely to be wearing her toddler on her back than makeup on her face. You can follow the adventures of her foodie family at Planes, Trains and All of Our Meals.
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