Preview: The Art of Lustron
Lustrons are an intriguing home, and an important part of Columbus history. Conceptualized and manufactured in the late 1940s, the Lustron was developed to help solve the housing crisis brought on by World War II veterans returning home. The mid-century design, built of prefabricated enameled steel panels, was a cheaper option for many. However, production issues and other troubles led to the company’s demise. Only about 2,498 Lustron homes were manufactured. Of those homes, some are preserved, but some are still being demolished.
“I find it important that this piece of Ohio, Columbus, and American history be preserved,” says Brian Reaume, artist and owner of a Westchester Deluxe Lustron home.
Reaume conceptualized The Art of Lustron, an exhibit he hopes will bring awareness to the work of Lustron preservation. The show opens Saturday at Tacocat Gallery.
“The concept for the show came about from two views,” he says. “One being, I wanted to help the Whitehall Historical Society and the Lustron Preservation Society with their work in preserving these homes; and two, because I think the architecture of the houses already has a gallery feel. They look like well executed works of art.”
Reaume salvaged panels from Lustrons slated for demolition. Over thirty artists are participating in the show, having created a piece of art that used the panel in some way.
“These panels would have ended up in a landfill if the structure had not been salvaged,” says Reaume. “The panels used for the show had defects, making it all the more interesting for the artists.”
Each steel panel has an enamel back overlay, and most measure two feet by two feet. Some are oddly sized, and some had more damage and rust then others.
“I think that the material made each artist create something personal and distinct by being non-traditional. It forced everyone to think outside their usual lines of comfort,” says Reaume.
“It was highly challenging to get paint to stick to the surface even after sanding,” says Mary Ann Crago, whose piece ‘Words I Like’ appears in the show. “At some point I decided to keep it simple and lean into that discomfort and since the paint seemed to come off easily anyway the idea came to me to scratch it off in a more intentional way.”
Adam Brouillette also participated in the show.
“When Brian suggested that he wanted to do something to help the Preservation Society, I think we all thought it would be a good thing to do,” he says. “It is also really easy to get into something when the person leading the effort is so passionate about it.”
Brouillette’s piece ‘Home’, uses stencil and spray paint, something he is not familiar working with.
“I wanted it to look like an old, weathered, metal sign,” he says. “It was especially difficult because I normally like my work to be clean and orderly… and being handed an old rusty panel is the opposite of that aesthetic.”
A preview of The Art of Lustron: Top row, left to right: ‘Dream and Reality’ xlene transfer/collage by Robert Trautman. ‘Home’ spray enamel on Lustron panel by Adam Brouillette. ‘Lustron in Surf Blue and Maize Yellow’ by Christopher Burk. Bottom row, left to right: ‘Recalling Numbers’ acrylic on Lustron panel by Derrick Hickman. ‘Home’ acrylic by Sharon Dorsey. ‘Words I Like’ by Mary Ann Crago.
Artists were free to set their own prices for the show, Reaume only requested that a portion be donated back to the societies in order to raise awareness and funds for future preservation of Lustrons.
“Unfortunately, more of these houses are lost to scrap yards and trash pits every year,” says Reaume. “The homes are becoming more rare. I find it important that this piece of Ohio, Columbus, and American history be preserved.”
Feature image of Brian Reaume with his piece, ‘Home Shot’.
The Art of Lustron will be on view Saturday, March 8 through Sunday March 30 at Tacocat Gallery. There will be an opening reception March 8 from 6-9pm and a closing reception Marcy 30 from 1-5pm. Tacocat Gallery is located at 937 Burrell Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43212. For more information visit tacocatcooperative.com.