Notes on Gentrification
“There are too many projects happening at the same time and none of them are managed in any sensible way. It’s pure greed–everyone
wants to develop as much as they can and make as much money as possible. It’s crazy.” (excerpt from Hollow City/Rebecca Solnit) ** referring to the tech boom in San Francisco nearly 20years ago
The following notes are moments i feel are the mile markers of gentrification. How might we be complicit? How can we support communities and grow our cities in holistic ways? How can we ask ourselves, business owners and developers to ask important questions?
(winter 2016)….. A year before we moved to 2nd & Lead I had started reading about the relationship between artists and gentrification. I had spent the past 8 years on my hands and knees setting tile in local Mcmansions to dump any and all income into creating a sustainable art space. Shortly after moving into the space a neighbor business owner said, “Let’s make this the next Wynwood.” I didn’t mention I had just returned from Miami a few weeks earlier and had stumbled among the remnants of an industrial, working class neighborhood turned art party- Wynwood. You could see where people made things, hopefully made a living, built a business….maybe it’s nostalgia-but I can’t shake the feeling that cities are trading in something meaningful for a veneer of progress. Developers want us to believe in transformation.
(summer 2017) on our street, twice a day- a steady stream of people travel to and from the Albuquerque Rescue Mission for food and additional resources. In my mind, it is a welcome reminder of the deep disparities in our communities. Occasionally, it’s a little more than just passing by, I get to know their name. It was the beginning of June, a young woman we will call “D” started using our bathroom about twice a day. A few, short days later another artist was beyond alarmed by D’s presence. In less than 90 seconds, a self-professed progressive activists engaged in #metoo, #blacklivesmatter had labeled the woman a thief. Being a once homeless female,I was more invested in providing use of the restroom and possibly, a tiny bit of dignity. That summer we hosted our first social practice visiting artist. Christine Wong Yap’s project, Belonging offered a poignant interrogation of the deeply entangled issues that comprise where we all might belong. “The goal of Belonging is to reveal the pivotal experiences that shape one’s sense of belonging and connectedness to a place and country, and how it ultimately defines our authentic selves; and to say, We All Belong Here.http://christinewongyap.com/work/2017/belonging/index.html I wonder how it is that we can compartmentalize the category of “other”?
(spring 2017)“The class is free for everyone living and working in THIS neighborhood!,” from a new Santa Fe non-profit(who is buying tons of distressed properties in Barelas and south Broadway neighborhoods). My first thought, I’m afraid of the the facility who’s teaching course…this is their logo- Do people working and living in Barelas feel unsafe? Do the non-profit’s employees, new to the neighborhood feel unsafe? The flyer says it’s supported by Project Reinvest: Neighborhoods…grant funding to “stabilize and revitalize distressed communities”. The grant appears to be related to real estate foreclosure. A little more research warrants my intuitive fear of the self defense facility, “militant, martial and combat ways”, along with experience in corrections and a shout out to our friends at the NRA. I had done a bit of contracting work with the non profit, they were all very nice folks and feel like they are good intentioned. I reached out to the CEO to have coffee and talk about gentrification. An initial yes was dropped a few weeks later. Some of the questions I wanted to address were: How can we facilitate/engage the larger, more difficult questions(class/race/displacement)? Why are people’s homes being foreclosed? Who exactly are we trying to make safe?
(summer 2018) bodies on the sidewalk or graffiti? In the past few months, occasionally there will be a visibly large tag somewhere on the property. The first time it happened, I must have received at least five phone calls before lunch from neighbors and the city Graffiti Task Force. I compare this seemingly codified sense of alarm to the disregard to a body lying on the sidewalk. A few weeks back I was walking over to an opening of community based exhibition. On the approach to the building, a handful of folks were ahead of me headed to the front door. Like a miraculous parting of the Red Sea, each person and group approaching the door side stepped the body of a young man on the ground. ….to be cont.
(late summer 2018) First Fridays have long been an industry staple. I have had mixed feelings about these events. Early on, in our first location I had been invited to participate in what’s called Artscrawl. I could never afford the hefty, I think 1200 annual fee to be officially included in the widely publicized event. Back then, as I do now- word of mouth and building solid reputations with artists is my primary means of advertising. Fifteen years forward, I don’t know that Artscrawl still exists. I do know that multiple businesses employ the first Friday to generate crowds. In the last year, our block and downtown in general has multiple venues ……..to be continued