New ‘Rooms to Let’ Documentary in the Works


If you’ve never experienced “Rooms to Let”, the annual immersive art experience in Slavic Village, it’s difficult to explain. In a nutshell, homes slated for demolition are transformed into temporary art exhibitions, room by room, by area artists and collectives. The show is open to the public for two days, and then the houses are demolished with little fanfare.

The general public doesn’t see the long process that goes on behind the scenes, how the houses are selected, who chooses the curators and artists, the hard work that goes into building the installations, or the demolition. That’s why it is so fortunate that Cleveland filmmaker Cigdem Slankard is making a documentary about Rooms to Let 2019. Slankard started shooting back in February, at the very first meeting at Slavic Village Development for the event.

Born and raised in Turkey, Slankard is Assistant Professor at the School of Film and Media Arts at Cleveland State University. She has written and directed several short film and video projects, which have been included in exhibitions and film festivals. This new project about Rooms to Let will be a short documentary, part of her ongoing investigation of stories emanating from Cleveland neighborhoods. Slankard received two grants through CSU to fund the project – the FSI – Faculty Scholarship Initiative Grant, and a USRA: Undergraduate Summer Research Award.

Mark and Cigdem Slankard at Rooms to Let 2019

In addition to showing the early meetings about the event, the documentary also captures when the curators first toured the houses. One of the houses had been squatted in, and was in terrible shape – so a contractor had to be hired to clean it out, which she also filmed. Slankard, and her director of photography, Mark Slankard (her husband, also a professor at CSU), filmed the artists creating their projects, installing them, and of course people experiencing the exhibits last weekend.

Slankard also places Rooms to Let in the context of the neighborhood, including the history of Slavic Village. As it was once the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis, Slankard explores what that means in the context of this urban story. She plans to include many perspectives, including residents, councilmen, the development corporation, artists, people who attend the event, and more.

The documentary will also feature a Cinematic VR piece, about 10 minutes long. Using a special VR camera, they captured all the spaces – each of the rooms – so the viewer will be able to virtually tour the houses, long after they are gone. 

One of her goals is to try to make it a story that resonates outside of Cleveland – for people just generally interested in art or city development. To connect Rooms to Let with a national audience, Slankard will place it in the larger story of the foreclosure crisis. It will end on a positive note however, with a couple that purchased a home in Slavic Village, partly because they were so influenced by experiencing Rooms to Let.

Slankard says the film should be completed by December, and will be submitted to area film festivals, and possibly distributed through amazon streaming video – there are a few possibilities – stay tuned to the CAN Blog, we’ll keep you posted.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.