Could This Tiny Art Gallery Become Cleveland's Last Pay Phone Standing?

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In late September, Cleveland City Council approved spending up to $200,000 to remove non-functioning pay phones from around the city. The next morning, Allison Lukacsy-Love was flooded with messages.

Since 2013, she's been operating Phone Gallery, a tiny pay phone box outside of Russ' Auto Care in Collinwood, 15302 Waterloo Rd., that she transformed into a place for local artists to show their work. It's been so well-received that she's planning to add a second gallery inside a pay phone in South Euclid's City Hall.

"I was nervous when I saw the legislation," Lukacsy-Love says. "I received text messages, emails and messages to the gallery's Facebook page. There was definitely anxiety. But on the flip side, it was really great to have all these people ask if they can help."

Her councilman put her in touch with Dedrick Stephens, the commissioner of assessments and licenses for the city. Lukacsy-Love says she was told the pay phone box would be placed on their inventory list in order to account for it, but it wouldn't be added to the removal list at this time.

"He could see even though it didn't fit the criteria of having an active payphone in it, it wasn't a nuisance," Lukacsy-Love says.

The Phone Gallery originated when another local artist, Ivana Medukic, had a grant for the project. Lukacsy-Love, an architect currently working as the Community Projects Manager at the City of Euclid, added her expertise and eventually took it over when Medukic moved.

For the first year, the gallery showcased works from artists in the neighborhood and Lukacsy-Love's own network. When she discovered Cuyahoga Partnership for Arts and Culture's Creative Compass, she put out a call and artists from across Northeast Ohio responded. 

The gallery rotates its exhibit every one to two months to coincide with Walk All Over Waterloo art walks. Artists have shown acrylic paintings, photography, ceramics, charcoal drawings, upcycled work and fiber art, among other mediums. Given the size of the phone booth, each piece can be about six inches in depth. The current show features acrylic work by Charley Frances. Interested artists can apply here.

"Phone Gallery is a whimsical, unique and unusual place to display art, so people tend to install really colorful, vibrant, fun pieces," Lukacsy-Love says.

The gallery's auto shop home base pre-dates the Beachland Ballroom, which kickstarted Collinwood's arts scene. Lukacsy-Love says the placement is intentional - she wants it to be art that's accessible, free and part of the community. 

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