Gary’s house shines and makes the community shine

GARY, Ind. “You could say she found a diamond in the rough.

Local artist Jennifer Taylor was looking for a studio when she decided to invest in her neighborhood. She used a dilapidated, abandoned house as her canvas.

Taylor first found the building seven years ago when it was a dilapidated, abandoned, old structure in Gary, Indiana’s Miller Beach neighborhood. City officials were shocked when the business owner wanted to renovate it, in her artistic way.

“He said, ‘Well, you can’t just put sparks all over the place,'” she said. “And I said ‘Oh yes I can.’ … I remember the day I walked in here through the front door and I thought, ‘Oh my God. This is it. This is my house. This is my studio.'”

From the moment she stepped inside, Taylor’s creative juices were unleashed. And she couldn’t wait to start her new art studio in one of the most unlikely spaces.

It took nine months of bidding before Taylor could take possession. And in September 2019, she got her dream apartment building for just $1,000.

She hired a contractor to do the repairs and enlisted some neighbors for a little help with the decorating.

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“So I said to the neighborhood, ‘I need some shiny things. Give me all your leftover bling!’ “, Did she say.

From costume jewelry to empty wine bottles, everything ended up finding a creative place. But the real brilliance came from the broken mirrors. This gives the house its true shine.

Taylor said his original plan was to make it a community art space and host art classes. But when the pandemic started, she had to pivot.

“I decided to make it an AirBnB and see what happens,” she said.

Minutes from Miller Beach, both bedrooms “Glittering House” as she calls it, has attracted curious tourists.

“Families come with their children and they can use all my supplies. I took out paint and brushes and stuff,” she said.

Gary City Council Common chairman William Godwin said Taylor inspired others by investing in the neighborhood. And now the city is looking to streamline the bidding process for potential owners.

“We try to recruit staff because we have a lot of people like Jennifer who want to give back and do innovative projects,” Godwin said.

When she’s not renting the space, Taylor hosts art groups and continues to work on projects around the house.

The lower level is rented to soap artisans and the adjoining garden is open to anyone curious.

The Sparkle House is a breath of fresh air among this stretch of abandoned houses.

Taylor said the house is still a work in progress and is an inspiration to neighbors when it comes to ideas for improving their community.

“I hope it’s inspiring, I want it to be just glorious,” she said.

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