Cleveland, OH (2010) – Artists Richey Piiparinen and Melissa Daubert decided it was time for an intervention – for a neighborhood. Their urban art therapy project The W83rd Street Project – Where Is Home? is built on the idea that cities and neighborhoods have emotional lives of their own, and that they must be tended to. If you construct buildings on psychic junk and expect change, the theory goes, you will only get more of the same.
The idea for the project came after a natural gas explosion (that was later ruled arson) destroyed a block on West 83rd Street in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. The block became a high-profile example of the corrosive effects of neglect. To “intervene” and help psychically repair the block, the artists first obtained access to a condemned and abandoned house three lots away from the explosion site. They then turned the home into an interactive installation. They cut window-like views into the house from the outside that showed old studs and the peeling layers of the house. They also installed an eye made of cardboard at the top of the house. The idea behind the eye was to literally put a face to the house. Other installations were staged in the driveway, and yet another apart of the project happened at a nearby church, where the artists asked visitors the question: “Where is home?” Later the visitors’ silhouettes were drawn on the walls and their responses to the question were stenciled into thought bubbles above their silhouetted heads.
Neglect and abandonment are significant problems in the rust belt. The intervention was meant to address the sadness, danger, and damage caused by the loss of this block – and the loss of so much more across the region. Cities, the artists seem to be saying, are mortal, too.