neighborhood art installation offers creative, healing response to gas explosion

January of last year, a natural gas explosion ripped through a vacant house on W. 83rd Street in Cleveland, destroying the home, damaging 57 others, and displacing at least 15 families.

Ultimately, investigators determined that the devastating eruption was caused by a gas main that hadn’t been shut off at the street. This prompted neighbors and city officials to wonder if many of Cleveland’s vacant and abandoned homes aren’t ticking time bombs, waiting to explode under the right conditions.

In the weeks and months following the incident, the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) found homes for the displaced families and co-hosted a benefit that raised over $30,000. Yet the hazard of potential gas explosions and arson continue to loom large in Cleveland’s neighborhoods.

Next Thursday, July 28th, a new art and architecture installation will be unveiled that is intended to be a creative, healing response to the incident. Dubbing it “urban therapy,” area residents Richey Piiparinen and Melissa Daubert will create an art installation at a vacant home on W. 83rd, then deconstruct it and reuse parts of it to create a nearby community park and reading garden.

Piiparinen and Daubert, who have volunteered their time on this project, spent the past year raising funds, gathering neighbors’ ideas about what “home” means to them, and tracing residents’ silhouettes. During the 10-day installation, these ideas and silhouettes will be projected onto the windows of the home at 2040 W. 83rd, just a few doors down from the lot where the explosion occurred.

“There’s a therapy component and an intervention component,” explains Piiparinen. “We’re transforming the dead symbol of this house into a sign of rebirth, and we’re also creating a neighborhood asset inspired by the explosion.”

Piiparinen and Daubert led a team of volunteer residents that included designer Jim Fish, architect Robert Donaldson, contractor Chris Shimp and electrician Julie Lindstrom. The new community park was funded by the West End Urbanteers Block Club, DSCDO, the city of Cleveland and Neighborhood Connections.

A public reception for the West 83rd Street Project will be held on July 28 beginning at 7:30 p.m.


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