Prompted by Yong Cho
On Medium: “As Denver Grows and Changes, Does it Truly Reflect Our Values?” By Erin Clark, in response to Tilt West Roundtable: Development, Displacement, & the Arts.
Tilt West invites you to a roundtable discussion on Development, Displacement, & the Arts, as part of Redline’s 48 Hours of Socially Engaged Art and Conversation Summit in Denver (August 11 and 12, 2017). Join us to discuss the intersection of art and gentrification as artists, developers, city planners, community leaders, and advocates tackle the problem of how to create a vibrant and inclusive sense of place in the burgeoning Front Range.
Framing the Conversation
by Kate Nicholson, Tilt West Board Member
When art galleries moved into Boyle Heights, a neighborhood often heralded as the heart of the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles, residents staged a protest rooted in performance art. Activists placed mock eviction notices in front of galleries as a clarion call for attention to the cultural and economic displacement that residents feared, one in which art is increasingly associated with gentrification, displacement and inequality. The originating scenario is familiar. Seeking out low-rent spaces, artists move into disadvantaged neighborhoods. Eventually, galleries follow, as do other cultural features, which, in turn, elicits the interest of prosperous newcomers. In time, real estate values escalate, displacing longstanding residents who are unable to keep up with skyrocketing rents. In the past few decades, cities across the country have begun to follow this pattern, deliberately courting the arts not for art’s sake but for the sake of economic and urban renewal. Richard Florida provided the formula in his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class: make your city a place where the creative class wants to live and you will revitalize the economy. The recipe worked; economic prosperity flourished. As Florida observes in his recent book, The New Urban Crisis, however, something also went awry; the same localities that were enjoying economic progress became the most unequal, widening the gap between rich and poor at an alarming rate.
Displacement is the unintended consequence of arts-based urban renewal. There is cultural displacement in which the culture of long-standing neighborhoods is sometimes colonized by a newcomer arts culture. Then, over time, the arts districts themselves become displaced by amenities like high-end restaurants and luxury stores. What began with cultural richness ends in homogeneity. There is also economic displacement, felt most acutely by renters, when property values escalate in gentrifying and adjacent neighborhoods. The Boyle Heights protests illustrate both types of displacement. Residents felt that the galleries were not looking to attract community members but rather were trying to replace “the culture that is Boyle Heights.” As rents soared, gentrification became a persistent source of panic in a neighborhood where most long-term residents live in danger of eviction.
Because displacement occurs at the intersection of art and gentrification, it is no wonder that artists are sometimes perceived as a threat by at-risk communities. But this perception is at best a correlation and at worst a function of competition for scarce urban resources. After all, artists too are typically displaced by this dynamic, compelled to move out of the neighborhoods they helped lift. With Denver and Boulder experiencing just the sort of boom that Florida outlines, this roundtable will assemble artists, progressive developers, city planners, and those working in affordable housing in a robust discussion of innovative possibilities for managing displacement and creating a culture of place in the Front Range that reflects the diversity of its residents.
This roundtable will be prompted by Yong Cho, local architect and Principal of Studio Completiva, who is passionate about affordable housing and sustainable design. Yong is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture and has taught at Yale University and the University of Colorado.
Redline’s 48 Hours of Socially Engaged Art and Conversation: 2017 follows RedLine’s annual theme: (Dis)place, which focuses on geography, community, access to resources, location, and relocation.
In a rapidly growing city, 48 Hours explores the many complicated layers of what makes a “place.” How does the physical fabric of a city contribute to understandings of civic character? Which neighborhoods and populations profit from development, and who is displaced as a result? How can art delineate places and mediate between communities?