Althea Jones, owner of the Black House Gallery, is the first local gallery owner to openly encourage visitors to “vandalize” her space. It might sound crazy, but Jones is inviting the public to a BYOS (Bring Your Own Spray [Paint]) event.
No surprise, this isn’t your typical gallery. The gallery is a repurposed vacant home on Cleveland’s east side. It doesn’t have lighting or restrooms. Jones established the Black House Gallery to “give life to alternative and traditional art in an experiential way.
“I decided I wanted to show people art in a fresh and different way,” explains Jones. “I want them to experience and feel the art. Today's art world can be very sterile. We stand in quiet rooms staring at art that we can't touch and reading descriptions we can't understand. I want to make art and experience it again like it was in school when it was just about creating something and there weren't any rules. With this in mind, I decided that I would focus on presenting art in a very overwhelming and experiential way. I would try to tap into all the senses and evoke an emotional response from the viewer.”
Despite early success as a child, Jones was discouraged from pursuing art in college or as a career, but after a surprise painting party on her 34th birthday, she rediscovered her love for art. This renewed interest led Jones to transform her former rental home into a studio and very unique gallery.
“I used to rent it out a while back but when the market crashed the street went almost completely abandoned and I couldn't pay people to move in," she says.
"The house had been sitting empty for about five years, and it was truly abandoned. The scrappers had broken in and stolen all the pipes, wires and anything else they could rip out. Most people would have seen this house as a lost cause, myself included. But thanks to my newfound happiness and passion, I saw it as an opportunity.”
This weekend, guests can tag every inch of the gallery – including the ceiling. Spray Days
takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 11. It’s all in an effort to prepare for the gallery’s next exhibition, Graffiti Brain
, scheduled to open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. Using the foundation created during Spray Days
, about 20 graffiti artists will tag, stencil, wheatpaste and sticker throughout the space.
Relating Spray Days
to Graffiti Brain
, Jones explains, “The goal of the Graffiti Brain
show is to place the viewer inside an overwhelming space that increases their appreciation of graffiti as an art form. As part of this show the entire gallery will be spray painted, including the floors and ceilings. There will be no rules as to where the graffiti artist make their marks and what they choose to say. The show will also feature some historical information and a deeper look into why the artists paint."
(The Black House Gallery) 3402 E. 119th St., 216-894-1905, [email protected]