The floors are spongy in Lincoln’s newest art gallery, the wiring exposed and the walls long gone.
The basement — with its precarious stairwell leading to a dirt floor and a buckling wall — is off-limits.
And the entire building could soon be history, scraped off its corner lot in a matter of months, if plans hold.
But for a few hours later this week, this shell of a once-proud home will return to life to showcase some of the problems — and solutions — in Lincoln’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods. Friday, the South of Downtown Community Development Organization will host a First Friday Pop-Up Art Show in the abandoned house it bought at 1105 E St.
The group paid nearly $50,000 for the 1,600-square-foot house in April, after it had sat vacant for more than a decade. The previous owner had started renovating it, stripping it back to the studs, but he never finished and the building attracted squatters and racked up city housing complaints.
It became a nuisance for those who live closest to it, and a missed opportunity in an area that needs more affordable, quality housing, said Isabel Salas, a community builder for the nonprofit.
The group plans to demolish the building and ask the neighborhood for help deciding what should go in its place. But before that, it wants to show the community what the house had become — and what it could have been.
“We wanted to celebrate the house and what it’s given to the community,” she said. “But this isn’t the only instance where a house has fallen into disrepair.”
A half-dozen artists have been invited to display their work. There isn't a theme for the art, though artists did learn the history of the house.
“Houses are sitting vacant for so long they are beyond repair,” Salas said. “We can bring all of this art and these people into the space that could have been beautiful, that could have been a home for people but it didn’t turn out that way.”
The art show will serve another purpose. Salas and others have been knocking on doors in the area, meeting the people who live there, gauging what they like about their neighborhood, and what they think it needs.
They’ve met people who feel disconnected — they don’t know their neighbors, or other renters in the same apartment building.
The art show should bring the neighborhood together, Salas said. “People want that one excuse to meet someone, but they don’t have that. We’ve been trying to have more events, more opportunities for people to meet each other.”
Earlier, the group removed doors from the house and painted two with “The community we deserve” and two with “The home we deserve.” They’ve taken them to festivals and events, asking the public to decorate them, and they’ll return the doors to E Street for the art show.
A volunteer crew from Spreetail cleaned years of dust and debris last week, and the South of Downtown group will secure any dangerous areas — though it's recommended not to wear thin-soled shoes to the art show.