The three abandoned homes off Long Street lack plumbing, electricity, heating and air conditioning.
Their walls and ceilings are pocked with holes. The windows are gone, replaced with plywood.In other words, the houses are perfect for Melissa Vogley Woods.
Woods founded “Rooms To Let,” which seeks deserted homes to convert to daylong art galleries.
On Saturday, the three houses will host the organization’s third and largest show — after offerings in 2011 and ’12 in Franklinton. Unlike conventional galleries, where artists temporarily display their canvases on white backgrounds, “Rooms To Let” converts houses themselves into canvases.
“I don’t want artwork that’s just hung on the wall,” Woods said. “The art has to be integrated to the site.”
Among the 11 installations created by 28 artists, visitors will find fabric pushing out of holes in walls, kitchen images painted on the walls of a demolished kitchen and a giant hole in a floor exposing a message on floor joists.
Structural issues that would have been major flaws in a gallery have been seized upon as artistic opportunities.
“I claimed the holes in the walls as soon as I saw them,” said Andrea Myers, whose Tell/Tale installation relies on colorful fabric jammed into the holes to represent the building’s internal life (a la Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart).
“I wanted to take something that was an eyesore and make it impactful and meaningful,” said Myers, a Columbus artist who typically uses fabric. Still, the homes’ dilapidated conditions presented challenges beyond requiring artists to work in the dark and bypass open floor vents.
When she claimed a second-floor bedroom for her Family Album sound installation, Sue Harshe didn’t think about the home not having electricity for the sound system. Her solution: provide headphones and MP3 players for visitors.
Her installation combines recorded sounds from the house — footsteps, creaking doors, people — with objects found in the building in an effort to re-imagine the house when it was occupied.
“I wanted visitors to project a feeling into the house,” said Harshe, a member of the veteran Columbus rock band Scrawl who also composes soundtracks for old films. “I’ll create an artificial history.”
In other ways, most of the displays draw upon the homes’ pasts — imagined or real — to encourage visitors to see the buildings through fresh lenses.
For his second-floor bedroom space, Columbus artist Timothy Smith researched wallpaper designs from the 1950s, when the Near East Side neighborhood was thriving. Smith painted the designs on the wall, took photos of the patterns, then covered his work with a coat of white paint.
The photos will hang on the freshly painted walls to convey an idea of vitality before suburban flight and urban-renewal projects transformed central-city areas.
“I wanted to take a long look at how the city evolved and excluded this neighborhood,” Smith said, “and to juxtapose that with this midcentury idea of progress.”
The “Rooms To Let” show is the Columbus photographer’s third — so he is used to the drill. He likes the exposure, he said, and, in today’s social-media world, nothing really vanishes.“Even though the art goes, you still have documentation of the event,” he said. “It still remains, in a way.”
When the show ends, the homes’ owner, Homeport, will move in. The Columbus nonprofit housing company plans to demolish one of the homes and remodel two as part of its larger renovation efforts in the North of Broadway neighborhood — bounded by Mount Vernon Avenue, N. 22nd Street, E. Long Street and N. 18th Street.For Homeport, the show is a way “to try to get more interest in the neighborhood, to let people know there’s things going on here,” said Abigail Mack, director of Homeport’s homeownership division.
Woods hopes that the large number of artists involved this year will draw more visitors. To help, she expects a food truck to set up shop for the event and perhaps a grill to be fired up and an acoustic band or two to provide some tunes.
She is happy to draw positive attention to neighborhoods that don’t get much, but she is under no illusions that a five-hour art show will result in long-term change.
“We’re not doing it to show art to the neighborhood. We don’t want it to be ‘Oh, the artists are coming in to show you art and improve your lives.’ That’s not what we want.
“We just want the house because it’s empty.”
If you go
The free "Rooms to Let" art show will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday at three houses in the "North of Broad" neighborhood: 214 N. 20th St., 194 N. 22nd St., and 219 N. 22nd. St.