Mehran Mesbah, curator of an apartment art gallery
When you meet Mehran Mesbah, mostly known as Mehr, he’s all open arms and open dialogue. He exudes friendly energy and is one with his neighborhood and greater community. After traveling extensively, he has settled into a life here in Sacramento, and lectures on art at Sacramento State. He lives in a three-story, six-unit Victorian apartment building on the southeast corner of 21st and I streets lovingly referred to as the Flop Haus, where he has recently turned the part of the building near the sidewalk into a window art gallery called The InsideOut, viewable by all on the street. Stroll on by any time.
When did you start living in Sacramento?
Since maybe 2008? I had been living in Portland prior and was backpacking in Europe for about four months. On the plane, I remembered a cafe in Sacramento that a friend introduced me to years before. I decided I would work there. From the airport, I went straight downtown not knowing the name of the cafe or the neighborhood it was located in. Block by block, I eventually found the iconic [Old Soul at the] Weatherstone. After 10 minutes of chatting with the owner, he hired me on the spot. I asked, “Where’s a good place to live around here?” A customer directed me toward a “for rent” sign across the street. I moved in the next day.
When did you start living at the Flop Haus down the street?
Knowing zero people in town, the Weatherstone connected me to Midtown and all the good folks at the Flop Haus. I moved in with a friend and co-worker one year later, about 2009.
How have you seen this place change?
When I moved in, it wasn’t even called the Flop Haus. It was the Lesbian Mansion. Being situated on the edge of Lavender Heights and Boulevard Park, the Haus has been a standing sanctuary for the LGBT community. [A couple I worked with] invited us to move in. Since then, Beaumont Cornell took over the degenerate task of shepherding the Haus, branding it the Flop Haus. He’s also responsible for the lavish lights and sounds coming from the second-floor balcony, which has become the main shared living space of the Haus. Still the best people-watching porch on the grid, hands down! Don’t believe me, come by one evening and give it a try.
I like that you’re down the block from the Eye Street Co-op.
I love that house! There is constant support between houses for events, yard sales and music shows. If I were to make a family metaphor, we would be the obvious black sheep. You know, that cool cousin that you love hanging out with but kinda has a drinking problem. We’re different in the way that the co-op is actually cooperative living, whereas we’re just seemingly much more social than other apartment buildings I’ve seen.
And now you’ve set up an art gallery at the Flop Haus?
Yes! The InsideOut. The project aims to promote artistic collaboration, exploration and experimentation across a large spectrum of the Sacramento community. Consisting of three bay windows, the space is an extension of my ground floor apartment on the 21st side of the Flop. Since the entire space is viewed from the street, site-specific installations and projects have the potential to be viewed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I hope the space becomes an eclectic niche in the community, engaging passersby and art enthusiasts alike. Our official opening was March 12 and will continue till April 30. Come by on Second Saturday and see “Alter,” a kinetic installation by Terry Peterson.
Do you miss being able to see out of that window?
In a weird way, yes. We’ve always had interesting interactions with the public via our windows. They were natural voyeuristic portals into our lives and activities, but I prefer the impact that InsideOut has already had on the community.
What do you think of the Sacramento arts community?
I think it’s much larger and diverse than the city’s capacity to represent it. I feel the more interplay, connections and opportunities between the full spectrum of creative people in Sacramento, the more vibrant the arts community will be. This is one reason why Art Hotel was such asuccess.