Art doesn’t always hang on walls. Sometimes it IS the walls. Or the lack thereof. An acquaintance of mine, Mark deJong, has an exhibit opening this Friday at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

The exhibit at the CAC is called Swing House, because Mark didn’t just renovate a nearly-condemned 1880s house in a downtrodden neighborhood near downtown… he reimagined it. He took out all the interior walls and middle floors in the narrow three-story building, and installed a 30-foot swing from the ceiling.

At first blush, it may sound like a gimmick. But read this article from CityBeat and you’ll discover the artistic intent behind every decision – the walls, the furniture, the fixtures, you name it. As the CAC’s show description says, “deJong turns renovation, restoration and residential revitalization into a transformative art.”

I know Mark via my friend Phil. Phil organizes a late night bike ride every month on the night of the full moon… it’s called the “Fool Moon Ride” because a bunch of foolish middle-aged men ride 10 miles to an undisclosed location along the banks of the Little Miami River, build a fire, enjoy some adult beverages and tasty food, then ride back. Mark and I have been on several of those rides together. There are definitely some very interesting conversations that happen in the wee hours, and Mark has always been one of the more intriguing dudes there, as well as being one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Swing House isn’t his first “houses as art” project. Several years ago, he bought an 1895 house for $5,000 and restored it, calling it Circle House. He’s also done a Square House. He uses old houses the way other artists use canvas.

Exterior of Swing House.

This may be Mark’s first full-fledged exhibit, but he’s been making artful work for years now. It doesn’t have to be watercolors or clay – it can be plaster and saws, hammer and nails. Too often, we regard the term “artist” as something reserved for an elite and “gifted” group. But if you work with your hands and create something, you’re an artist. We all are, each in our own way. Don’t let other people’s judgments or societal norms get in the way of your vision. Do what you do… share your gifts… and swing, baby, swing!