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Home planned for demolition to host artists’ installations

The house at the Governor Oliver Ames EstateThe Trustees

If you’re an artist, and you can’t live in a fancy home on a vast swath of land, why not do the next best thing? Take one over for a few days, and do anything you’d like with it.

Well, almost anything.

The Trustees of Reservations, an organization that preserves and maintains historic buildings and parks across the state, is inviting artists to come up with ideas for the 13 rooms at a house on the Governor Oliver Ames Estate in Easton. Each winner selected for the “Art Blast: Blank Slate Art” competition will occupy one of the rooms for an exhibit to be held in August.


Artists will transform the spaces on the first floor of the house, a vacant building “nearing the end of its lifespan,” into an outdoor landscape. The theme of the open-to-the-public installation is bringing nature indoors.

“The idea is that artists are being given an opportunity to completely transform the rooms,” said Kelsey Cowdell, engagement site manager of the estate. “We’d like them to take over the entire room, and create an immersive experience for the visitors.”

Artists can use the walls, floors, and ceilings as a platform for their 3-D art, staging, floral displays, paintings, photography, and even sculptures, Cowdell said.

The post-war colonial revival house at the 36-acre “bucolic estate,” which was first settled by former Governor Oliver Ames and features rolling hills and meadows, is not historic.

The Trustees are still figuring out what will become of the home, but plans call for its demolition.

“It’s a cool house, but it’s not historically or architecturally significant,” Cowdell said, adding that until they determine its fate, the organization “wanted to give it a reason to be there.”

Similar projects have been done across the country. In 2015, artists and florists turned a vacant home in Detroit into an indoor garden space, with floor-to-ceiling floral displays.


“It’s a riff on that,” said Cowdell.

The rooms at the house on the Easton estate can be viewed on the Trustees’ website. Some of them are skinny and long, like hallways. Others are expansive, and feature large windows that offer views of trees and grassy hills.

“People can get a feel for what it looks like” if they watch the videos, Cowdell said.

Lenny Long, artist and senior critic in the Illustration Department at Rhode Island School of Design, will pick the artists from a pool of applicants.

Each artist will have to send pictures of two other examples of their work, whether it be a painting or sculpture or other medium, as well as a description of their vision for the competition and how they plan to achieve it.

Those picked will then have three days in August to set up their display before the exhibit opens. The artist, or artists — people can work in pairs, if they’d like — with the most compelling exhibit will win $5,000.

The deadline for submissions is July 15. Applications can be downloaded on the Trustees’ website.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.