Artists attack SB problem with vacant and abandoned homes

So you think the City of South Bend’s plans to deal with 1,000 vacant and abandoned homes in 1,000 days is ambitious?

Now an army of artists is out to tackle up to 500 problem properties in a single weekend.

“And the more community you have involved in it, the more homes you can address,” said Christopher Stackowicz of cstackstudios, LLC.

While the artists won’t be able to demolish or renovate the homes, they do believe they can make a difference by changing the way people look at those properties.

The Spring Forward plan is to make vacant and abandoned homes look lived in and cared for by painting the plywood used to secure doorways and windows.

“This at least when they see a window painted like a window, with perhaps a silhouette of a mother and child in the window or a man reading the newspaper with flower boxes painted on there,” said Stackowicz. “Gives them a positive energy rather than just negative of just boards across the windows and doors.”

While the Spring Forward South Bend program amounts to window dressing it’s the type of thing Cincinnati has used to let otherwise powerless and frustrated neighbors do something about vacant and abandoned houses.

“It’s shown over in Cincinnati that crime rates, graffiti, all of those things go down when you do this in a neighborhood and it does again show some care. People are concerned over the neighborhood and want to see better things happen,” said Diana Hess with the Neighborhood Resources Corporation.

Many of the 950 volunteers who recently painted a mural on the railroad bridge over State Road 933 north of Leeper Park have signed up for a chance to beautify vacant and abandoned homes.

“Artists are often one of the most vastly underutilized resources within a community and yet we have great ideas and are able to get things done and we're highly motivated right now,” said Stackowicz. “Without using city resources without using one big corporate umbrella that the citizens can take control of their neighborhoods and give them back to the neighborhoods give them back to the people.”

Spring Forward will take place on a single weekend on March 8th and 9th.

A donation of $500 is required to sponsor a vacant and abandoned house. Businesses are expected to account for the majority of sponsors.

“And out of that money the neighborhood association gets some money, the artist that designed the windows gets some money, so people working in the windows, whether it’s’ a school, a classroom of kids, or an area artist would get money from it as well,” said Diana Hess.

The group can be found on the internet at:

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