GARY, Ind. — You might 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 rundown and abandoned home as her canvas.
Taylor first found the building seven years ago when it was 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 own artistic way.
“He said, ‘Well you can’t just put sparkles all over it,’” 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 foot inside, Taylor’s creative juices went wild. And she couldn’t wait to get started on her new art studio in one of the most unlikeliest of spaces.
It took nine months of bidding before Taylor could take ownership. And in September of 2019, she got her dream building for just $1,000.
She hired a contractor to do the repairs and called on neighbors for a little decorating help.
More information at Sparklehouseart.com
“So I put it out there to the neighborhood, ‘I need sparkly things. Give me all your leftover bling!’” she said.
From costume jewelry to empty wine bottles, everything eventually found a creative spot. But the real shine came from broken mirrors. That gives the house it’s real shine.
Taylor said her initial 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.
Just minutes from Miller Beach, the two bedroom “Sparkle House,” as she calls it, has attracted curious tourists.
“Families have been coming with their kids and they can use all my supplies. I put out paint’s and brushes and all that stuff,” she said.
Gary City Council Common President William Godwin said Taylor has inspired others by investing in the neighborhood. And now, the city is looking to streamline the bidding process for potential homeowners.
“We’re trying to staff up because we have a lot of folks like Jennifer who want to give back and do innovative projects,” Godwin said.
When she’s not renting out the space, Taylor hosts art groups and continues to work on projects around the house.
The lower level is rented to artisan soap makers and the next door garden is open to anyone who is curious.
The Sparkle House is a breath of fresh air among this stretch of abandoned homes.
Taylor said the home is still a work in progress and she’s an inspiration to neighbors when it comes to ideas for improving their community.
“I hope it’s inspirational I want it to feel just glorious” she said.