Artists are giving vacant homes in Slavic Village new meaning at the 'Rooms to Let' Exhibit

CLEVELAND - Blighted homes scattered throughout Cleveland continue to plague neighborhoods. They remain vacant and often ignored as they deteriorate, but artists are giving new purposes to neighborhood eyesores.

Cleveland's Slavic Village is taking this mission to heart; artists involved say it’s almost like a funeral.

“It is really emotional for the community members and for the artists involved in the product," said Andrew Kinney, Community outreach manager for Slavic Village Development.

But artist and house curators like Dana DePew get to say goodbye in style.

“It’s our opportunity as well as our obligation in an essence to give the spaces a proper eulogy. They're kind of cast offs and vacant, and they were thriving at one time," he said.

Special farewell

Depew is one of a hundred artists who has been working on these five abandoned homes for a special farewell art exhibit called "Room To Let." It’s the fourth year the exhibit has been held.

“It gives them a chance to do ideas and projects that they technically or necessarily would never have been able to do," Depew said.

MORE: Learn about Cleveland's Slavic Village

Those creative ideas include two-story drop of hanging toilet paper rolls going through the roof of the living room or a massive orange and yellow cloud coming from a painted mannequin, and even a wooden latter forcing its way out the house through the upstairs window. 

These are just some of the artistic expressions in the house Depew and his team of artists have been working on.

Past lives

As DePew worked on his assigned sections of the house, he took inspiration from the people who walked these halls, years ago.

“Sometimes there are dressers with some clothes and personal effects, so it's kind of very interesting to see and kind of get an understanding as to who previously lived here,” he said.

That understanding and appreciation are what organizers tell me this neighborhood, which has suffered a large population loss, needs. They hope "Rooms to Let" meets that need.

“It also gives people some hope and some interest in how we can re-imagine what to do with these vacant and abandoned properties in the city," Kinney said.

New life

The artists act as morticians before the homes are finally put to rest.

“It's an opportunity to one more time breathe some life back into it," DePew said.

The five homes used in the exhibit will be demolished within the next six to seven months, but if you want to give them their proper goodbye, you can check out the artist’s work all this weekend from noon to 5 pm.

The epicenter of the event will be at the Polish American Cultural Center at 6501 Lansing Avenue where there will be food, a market, parking and live entertainment.

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