Motels are known for notable art. Most notably, the kind that’s bolted to the wall to prevent guests from taking the framed watercolor seascape back to the Midwest as a souvenir.

But the 21 rooms of the waterfront Nevada Motel on Long Sands Beach in York will feature artwork that doesn’t just complement the room — it’ll take the room over.

Twenty-one artists from around the country, including four from Maine, are checking into the hotel today and turning the traveler’s lodgings into a temporary art space.

For two days, the artists will create within the walls of their motel room, and the result of the mini-residency will be on display Friday evening during “21 Rooms,” an interactive event featuring installation, performance and video art.

“We specifically wanted interactive, installation and video — things like that. We want the art to transform the room,” said John Gayle, co-founder of Portsmouth, N.H.-based 3S Artspace, along with Chris Greiner. “Several of the pieces are literally, step into the room and interact with the artist’s installation.”

Guest curator Quinn Corey selected the 21 artists from more than 70 submissions, focusing on works that allow the audience to get involved.

“21 Rooms” isn’t an ease-by-an-easel kind of experience.

Among the artists is Jessica Lauren Lipton of Portland, who says her interactive performance “is about manifesting the ephemeral effect of relationships in a tangible way.” Her room will be set up like a film noir scene with the heroine sitting at her vanity, endlessly preparing herself for a grand entrance to an unspecified event. Attendees are encouraged to interact by touching her and applying charcoal to her skin, which she’ll work to wash away even as more is added.

Bennett Morris, also of Portland, is a multidisciplinary artist, designer and teacher. His installations “infiltrate architectural spaces” and feature “landscapes of unknown origin (that) appear in lensed portals that seem to be looking back. Video feeds blur the boundaries of the simulated and the real.”

The event is part of 3S’s Open Space series — an effort to showcase emerging artists and bring art to unique spaces. Gayle, who lives in Kittery, says the motel art show was an idea he and a friend had years ago.

But unlike the gallery-style hotel exhibits done elsewhere in the country, organizers wanted the rooms to be part of the art.

“The idea we had was, give the rooms to the artists and have them make art in that room,” Gayle said.

The impermanent artist studio will influence the artist and the resulting work. And visitors will see the piece in the place where it was created.

At a seaside space like the Nevada Motel, with its ’50s-era facade and waterfront proximity, it’s typically the views of the Atlantic that catch people’s attention. Friday’s exhibit will have those people looking inside rather than out.

And while “21 Rooms” attendees will have a chance to see 21 diverse performance and installation artists in one venue, the exhibition also introduces many of those artists to the Maine coast for the first time.

The event “showcases emerging artists and tries to connect local artists with the local community,” said Gayle. But it’s also about bringing in other people.

“They’ll go back to Chicago or Texas or New York and say, ‘There’s this really cool place in Maine or Portland or Portsmouth this beautiful area,” he said.

This is the first event 3S Artspace has organized in Maine. Although based out of Portsmouth, Gayle says the mission of 3S has always been focused on the seacoast — and not hindered by state borders.

In addition to the Open Space series, 3S Artspace is continuing work on a multidisciplianry art space in downtown Portsmouth that will feature an art gallery, performance venue and farm-to-table restaurant. The space is expected to open in fall 2012.

“21 Rooms” is free and open to the public from 5 to 9 p.m. DJ Douglas Urbank will spin “experimental, improvisational and otherwise unconventional music,” and Inn on the Blues and Guac-N-Roll will provide food.

An after-party at Inn on the Blues in York Beach will feature a cash bar and live music from The Gentleman Outfit.

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at: [email protected]

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