Reframing the Artist's Role for Longevity through Gentrification

December 17, 2015

Gentrification is one of those words that stir up emotions which makes it difficult, if not impossible to understand and digest its significance. There is a certain rhythm and pattern to gentrification in which Artists play a central role. It is common knowledge that large cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are epicenters of gentrification. It is also common knowledge that Artist initiate changes in the communities in which they live and work. Artist as described by Queen Victoria in a mis-contextualized quote, "Mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous".  Artist's presence create a critical eye for conversation and change that is accessible to the "people" within a community, apposed to dialogues initiated by the needs of the people in a civil forum. Artist reframe neighborhoods by setting up studios and living in affordable and sometimes impoverished neighborhoods. While the growth and expansion of a community can be a positive step, this organic process is often malignantly accelerated by previous metrics of development like SOHO in New York or Wicker Park in Chicago.

 

Artists are conditioned to respond to gentrification with a short lived nostalgia and sudden disdain for their contributions. They are prompted to ask where the next cheap and affordable neighborhood lies. We are quick to be brave pioneers on the next urban frontier only to reinitiate the rhythm and patterns of gentrification. The inherit scarce mentality which the art work subscribes to, from art school to institution and gallery setting, cuts short the longevity Artists can have in their new community regardless of gentrification. Perhaps a better question to ask is "How can I stay in my community?". This is a question that communities might have asked in regards to the Artist presence to begin with. It is a question that is answered by rapid development before there is even an awareness of the need to pose the question. What would have to be in place for Artists and community members to set long lasting roots despite gentrification?

 

To explore the possibility of longevity in regards to the Artists, one must accept the dual entity of Artists as Cultural Producer and Radical Entrepreneur. These two roles have the potential to flourish beyond buzz words. Accepting this duality allows the Artist to extend their studio practice and create a genuine reach directly with a shifting community. Artists are entrepreneurs not only of what they create, but of ideas and keen points of views. As Radical Entrepreneur the Artist is engaged and welcomes partnership and patrons. This role gives the Artist the credibility as a medium to resolve and influence questions of civil deliberation.The clear way to pacify gentrification is to boldly ride the wave instead of resisting it or give up and willingly get wiped out. 

 

Artist must reframe gentrification as an opportunity to bridge the gaps that the gravitational pull of blind capitalism has created. it is the Artists role to point our that development is just math and cold dollars with out the context of culture and community. Gentrification is a complex paradigm that affects a myriad of people form different groups in the same community. The ability of those affected to respond is determined by yet a further complex dynamic of economics and social issues. This is a suggested framework and shift in perception for Artists who can expand their roles into Radical Entrepreneurs to reframe gentrification as an opportunity for longevity. Our dangerous powers of "social integration" as decreed by Queen Victoria works both ways. We can ask the same old rhetorical questions of impermanence or we can shift the dynamics of power by expanding our ideas of what an Artist's roles can and should be. 

 

 

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