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Issue Date: May 2014 Issue

Village Peddler

Vacant homes will be turned into art for a daylong neighborhood block party.
Megan Murray

Slavic Village is ready for a look in the mirror — even if it means showing its blemishes.

On May 17, more than 25 artists will transform three vacant homes into temporary art installations for Rooms to Let: Cleveland. Inspired by the success of the large-scale temporary exhibit in Columbus, Ben Campbell wants to examine vacancy through a different lens.

"I really saw how it could bring people into a neighborhood that they would never visit," says Campbell, formerly of Slavic Village Development Corp. "I also saw how the neighbors became engaged and excited."

That's critical for the neighborhood, where years of housing decline are being countered by investments such as decorative crosswalks and bike lanes. Here's what you'll discover on the day of art, music and food.

6818 Fleet Ave.

THE HOUSE ↣ Built in 1920, it is on a tree-lined section of Fleet Avenue off Broadway Avenue.

THE CURATOR ↣ Barbara Bachtell, executive director of the Broadway School of Music and the Arts, serves on Cleveland's East Design Review Committee. "[It] has sensitized me to looking at the fabric of the whole neighborhood and what each and every structure can contribute," she says.

HER GOALS ↣ "I am very much interested in looking at projects that honor or remember the past people who occupied the home," she says.

DON'T MISS ↣ Video artist Cynthia Penter brings the past to life with everyday images of imagined former inhabitants projected onto the walls. "I am mostly interested in bringing images of Eastern European immigrants who lived in the area in abundance [and added] their own lively culture to Northeastern Ohio."

6801 Forman Ave.

THE HOUSE ↣ Built in 1934 and repossessed in 2013, the extended bungalow has nearly 11 rooms.

THE CURATOR ↣ Scott Pickering, an artist and 20-year neighborhood resident, describes himself as "a zany, goofy, slightly cartoony, always bright-colored, artist."

HIS GOALS ↣ "My ideal is for this to be seen as a positive and empowering project that is great for the neighborhood rather than a destructive element," he says.

DON'T MISS ↣ After being inspired by boarded up windows that resembled eyes and angled porches that could be a nose, Pickering plans to transform the home's exterior into a face using bright-colored fluorescent paint. "It's going to be Pee-wee's Playhouse turned upside down," he says. "You're going to want to come in just to see what the hell is going on."

6626 Forman Ave.

THE HOUSE ↣ Built in 1900, the single-family home behind Cleveland Central Catholic High School was originally slated for demolition.

THE CURATORS ↣ Westleigh Harper and Michael Horton of Maker design studio recently moved their architectural practice to Slavic Village.

THEIR GOALS ↣ The duo is focusing on the home's exterior as the epicenter of the entire event. "We are looking at how it affects the neighborhood and some of the visitors on a larger scale rather than just a piece of art," says Horton.

DON'T MISS ↣ The architects, who usually create lasting structures, have been inspired by the temporary nature of the project. "We're not dealing with typical things we deal with like building codes," says Horton. "This is an unedited block being put out there to the world," adds Harper.

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