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The Art of Gentrification

Awesome piece of street art, no?

Great nod to Creation of Adam, we all know it, right?

Here's the thing... that image knows not what it does and says more than we might realize at first glance.

That lovely piece of street art is one step in the process of gentrification. Gentrification is the path to higher income residents.

Higher incomes mean more tax revenues.

Money, Money, Money makes the world go round and in some needy neighborhoods, art is the push needed to start it spinning.

Put it like this, if you want to push out the poor and make room for the wealthy, hire an artist and pay her a pittance to make the neighborhood beautiful and watch the hipsters move in.

It sounds harsh but it is more and more true. Cities have embraced the power of art to gentrify failing neighborhoods...

And who can blame them...

Who wants to live the "before" picture, when you can live the "after?" Right?

The truth is, I LOVE street art. One day I would love to learn how muralists perform their craft because there is nothing more uplifting than something beautiful, just because.

BUT "just because" is not "free." Gentrification is not without casualties.

Check out this article in The Huffington Post, about NYC Street artist Ann Lewis.

In a stroke of genius, and intense irony, Ms. Lewis because a street art project in which she had caution tape printed with "Gentrification in Progress." She sold and placed the tape all over gentrifying neighborhoods in Brooklyn where lower income people and businesses were being forced out due to skyrocketing rents.

In the article, she speaks about some street art she and some of her contemporaries did in the East Village in NY,

"Last year, Lewis and other street artists held a show in an East Village building that was set for demolition to make way for luxury condos. She recreated the kitchen of a family who had lived there, then smashed it to pieces with a sledgehammer that bore the label “progress.”"

Brilliant, right?!

Here's the inherent and sad irony of her piece and of this article.

It is precisely this type of brilliant street/performance art that CREATES the gentrification the artist intended to combat.

In short, Ann Lewis is the REASON people want to move into her neighborhood. She makes the neighborhood edgy, trendy and FAR more valuable, with her decoration, to the young, middle class that will eventually force her to move out of the neighborhood she helped to create.

What's the moral of my story?

Look around.

If you are in a city like, Baltimore, DC, Detroit, New Orleans or Philly you will see some art that will stop you by some artists more talented than you or I will ever be - and that should be beautiful.

But I wonder, what would you say if you knew that the face on that vacant is that of an old man who can no longer afford to live in the building that is now decorated with his features?

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