by Richard S. McCoy
What’s going on at 121 E. 34th Street? There’s stuff everywhere. Hand-drawn signs taped to the chain-link fence, a wall of lilac bushes in full bloom and floating their fragrance out into the alley, a mural with two rabbits making, well, bunny love, painted by celebrated and occasionally controversial artist Jules Muck (known by her tag “Muck Rock”), a huge yellow school bus half painted black in the driveway, and there’s a garage behind the house. Look down the driveway at the garage.
Brent Lehker and his partner Michelle McGuire transformed a section of this garage into Storage Space Art Gallery in early 2018. Since then Lehker has curated exhibitions that showcase Indianapolis artists — even through the pandemic. It started out as a tiny, 300 square foot space with white walls that would feature a few pieces by a single artist. There’s an opening for each show where people hang out in the driveway, drink cans of beer, stand around a fire pit, and chat about the work and whatever. Sometimes there are actual fireworks set off on top of the garage. It’s a little community of art lovers from around the neighborhood and across the city.
“The gallery is a part of, and an outgrowth of, my art practice,” said Lehker who showed me the gallery in advance of the most recent solo exhibition. “I want to make an amenity for the community and my neighborhood.”
Bekah Pollard’s show opened in May and featured seven of her most recent paintings that examined her thoughts about past relationships. “Good Guy” will be on view for about a month and will close with an artist talk by Pollard the week before the next exhibition. There will be six or seven more shows this year, each opening on a Friday in the middle of the month.
Many art shows in Indianapolis open on the first Friday of the month, but not Storage Space. “I think we should have art openings more than one day of the month,” explains Lehker. “Plus being a bit off the normal can create a spotlight for us.”
Is it legal to do this behind your house? Well, for you, probably not. But in this case, yes. This land and much around it is zoned “Non-Residential C3,” which allows for such things. It’s a good thing for Midtown. Last year Lehker tripled the size of the gallery inside his garage.
Sometimes the artworks are for sale, but unlike a traditional gallery, Lehker doesn’t take a cut of the sale. It goes all to the artists. This kind of thing takes a lot of effort from Lehker, but he clearly enjoys the community that is growing around the gallery and in his driveway. Who knows how long this will go on, or how many other projects Lehker has in mind for the future? He’s currently transforming that school bus into a kind of mobile maker space.
Even without knowing the address of the gallery you might be able to find it by tracking back all of the circles painted on the streets and alleyways around the 3200-3400 blocks of the neighborhood, just east of Meridian Street. Or check them out on Instagram and Facebook. Also, the bathroom inside the house is pretty great. The whole thing is a work of art.
Arts administrator and Historic Meridian Park resident Richard S. McCoy serves on the Midtown Indy board of directors.