If a single picture is worth a thousand words, then how valuable could a community-wide art project be? Richey Piiparinen, an expert in urban poverty and redevelopment, asked just that question and found the answer in a neighborhood rocked by devastation.
In January 2010, more than 50 homes and surrounding buildings in Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood were damaged or destroyed in a natural gas explosion. The disaster resulted in further vacancies in an already disenfranchised area.
Piiparinen found a way to help community members heal from such loss by using visual and experiential art to get residents talking about issues of abandonment and loss. His W. 83rd St. Project turned a condemned home into an art installation that encouraged residents to think about their experiences before, during and after the explosion, and share their stories and feelings with their neighbors and community leaders.
This spring, the home will be deconstructed and reused to make tables and benches, and create a reading garden for local residents to enjoy. It will serve as a reminder that positive transformation can emerge even in the face of adversity.