This House Is Not For Sale
THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE is a public art project conceived of by artist, Witt Siasoco (recipient Forecast Public Art Jerome Project Grant) and poet, Molly Van Avery (recipient Activities Grant from Metropolitan Regional Arts Council), founder of Poetry for People. Utilizing the realty sign as both a symbol for the themes of the project and as a structure for displaying art, THINFS brought together an affordable housing organization (City of Lakes Community Land Trust), homeowners who live in formerly foreclosed homes, a poetry group (Poetry for People), and Witt Siasoco to create site-specific artwork in front yards throughout Minneapolis.
Poetry for People and Siasoco worked closely with the CLCLT to identify eight households throughout the City of Minneapolis who were willing to share stories about the state of their home at the time of purchase, the transformation the home underwent after purchase, the stories they have learned or made up about its past, and how their lives have been impacted by owning the home. Inspired by the story exchanges, a poet wrote an original poem and Witt Siasoco created visuals that manifested in a one-of-a-kind screen print. Witt also collaborated with the poet to lay out the poem in a poster format and incorporated visuals. The final pieces incorporate the poem and a visual translation of the homeowners’ stories and are displayed in the homeowner’s front lawn on a structure that resembles a realty sign, also designed and built by Witt Siasoco.
From Molly Van Avery
THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE was born from the haunting in my house of friendly ghosts. The first time I went inside what would later become my house, it was full of remnants of the previous family; half-done homework, photographs of smiling boys, onions on the kitchen floor growing green tendrils. I could tell a family lived there and later learned the woman who owned it was a single, African American mother, the demographic hit hardest by foreclosure crisis in Minneapolis around 2012 (I bought my house for less than half what she paid). I talked to the idea of her I formed in my head as I slowly cleaned and painted the house, telling her that I, too, hoped to become a single mom in that house; that I could help my future children with their homework, chop onions, and welcome people who needed safe harbor.
Since living in my house, I have written stories, made performances, and worked on a collection of poems about the house that grappled with race, class, family, and what it means to make a life in the wake of someone else’s loss. This House Is Not For Sale extended these conversations to other families who also purchased a foreclosed home and gave me the chance to listen to how other people have made sense of the storyline of their homes and intersections with the history of a property. Thanks to this project, the powerful poets, the intuitive and generous talent of Witt Siasoco, the hilarious and dedicated CLCLT staff, and the grace and welcome of the homeowners we partnered with, I got to spend a summer getting to know people’s communities and blocks, celebrating with food, drinks, and music, and witnessing over and over the power of art to
For more information about Poetry for People, Molly’s Poetry Mobile, or the artists involved with the “This House is Not for Sale” project visit http://poetryforpeople.tumblr.com.
*This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.