Kelly O

C.M. Ruiz is sitting on a dusty floor, unrolling an oversize Xerox print of a woman—a photograph taken by photographer and artist Megumi Shauna Arai. Ruiz collaborated with Arai to make a series of collage paintings for a new art show opening May 5 inside the former home of the much-missed downtown peep-show venue the Lusty Lady.

"Do you want a tour of the space?" he asks. Long gone are the iconic coin-operated booths with shutters that opened up (for just one quarter!) into the main viewing room of exotic dancers. The entire space is stripped—so to speak—to its bones with only exposed brick and wooden floors left to tell the story of the building's colorful past. Upstairs are former low-income apartments, also stripped down to their basic framework. The 126-year-old building is cavernous and enormous.

"Does it ever feel haunted when you're working on art in here all alone?" I ask. "Nah," says Ruiz. "But that doesn't mean there aren't some sort of ghosts here."

Getting the space to use as a temporary art gallery was as easy as approaching the current building owners with a good idea. "We asked the new lease holders if they wanted to donate the space for cultural events that give back to local nonprofits, and they said yes," says Ruiz, who hopes to hold future events in the space—DJ nights, poetry readings, pop-up group shows. "A part of any money earned here will be donated to the Low Income Housing Institute and the Sex Workers Outreach Project." recommended

Check out C.M. Ruiz and Megumi Shauna Arai's show and the new space at First Thursday Art Walk on Thursday, May 5.