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Artist losing home to foreclosure, turns it into gallery

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Ernest Conception
Ernest Conception has come from New York for "No Assumptions." He says it's great to be able to convert an entire house into an art installation.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

People react to the foreclosure crisis in different ways. One woman in Minneapolis is choosing to mark the loss of her home by temporarily converting it into a gallery which opens this weekend. 

Mirelle Zacharis wants the exhibition she's calling "No Assumption" to be a little different.

"I would like people to come in and be immersed in sort of an experience within a home, and it is a foreclosed home, and find different ideas happening," she says. 

Zacharis leads a tour of 1235 Monroe St. NE, even as work continues on the installation. 

  The house looks boxy from the outside. It was once a store. Zacharis mother bought it 12 years ago. She developed cancer last year and passed away. Then Zacharis discovered the house was financially underwater, worth much less than the mortgage. 

  That's when Zacharis began learning about foreclosure.

"The topic is sometimes pretty boring," she says. "And I know from experience how boring it really is. It's really difficult." 

Mirelle Zacharis
Mirelle Zacharis says turning her home into a gallery for the last few weeks of her ownership helps her deal with the foreclosure.
Photo courtesy of Terry Gydesen

She has to be out by Nov. 1. Some people would have just walked away, but Zacharis, who has worked as an art handler in Minneapolis and New York decided to make her foreclosure much more interesting, more of a community event. 

She's invited some 30 artists to show work in her house. There's painting, photography, and sculpture, both inside the house and in the yard. One room features video art.

Next door, artist Vandana Jain is working on a mural on a living room wall. It's a design she's created using corporate logos as a commentary on the state of the world. Jain 's also going to be doing a piece in the yard with fabric made to look like brightly colored Tibetan prayer flags.

"And then all of the mantras are actually like healthcare advocacy slogans," she says. 

  Jain came from New York to help curate "No Assumption." Her work touches on health care and she says the idea of the exhibit is to cover many issues which can be linked back to foreclosure. 

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"You know domesticity, or deals with like being a woman, or deals with having cancer. And I kind of like the fact that a show like this can sort of address all those things, all at the same time and it does so in a ways that just because of where it is and how it's put together is very poignant," she said. 

The house isn't large, so there is art everywhere - even on the radio waves. Mirelle Zacharis says another artist is creating a low-powered radio station which will be heard around the house coming out of hidden speakers.

"Broadcasting clips and different reworkings of interviews and media samples of people who have experienced foreclosure," she said. 

It's not all serious. Down in the basement Ernest Concepcion is working on a painting of a huge battle between fantastic creatures. He is part of a team called "Shining Mantis" with Mike Estabrook. It's not so much a collaboration as an artistic contest spread across a single surface.

"We're avid drawers, and we basically attack each other's drawings," he says with a big smile.

Concepcion said he thinks the gallery idea is romantic and fun. 

His collaborator Estabrook is upstairs playing chords over the phone so a musician who is coming to perform and use the piano can judge whether it's in tune. 

There's a lot of work to do before the grand opening on Saturday evening, including wrapping the outside of the house in an inflatable bag. Mirelle Zacharis says she hopes its going to be a way of quitting her home with good memories.

"Having this event is kind of a way to feel a little bit happier about leaving than just locking the door and just walking away with my last box, in tears," she said.

Before the opening she says she has her own piece to create, out of medications bottles her mother collected before she passed away.