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May 2009

Gentrification with or without Exploitation

Just read this from Cool News. It used to be that artists were invited into neighborhoods as a way to speed gentrification, pushing out current residents and eventually, as the developers got involved, pushing out the artists too. Hopefully we are seeing some change in that process. Can't we all live together? Maybe this is the change we need: "Artists have become the occupiers of last resort ... The worse things get, the more creative you have to become," says Robert McNulty in a Wall Street Journal piece by Alexandra Alter (4/17/09). Robert is president of Partners for Livable Communities, and he's commenting on what's happening in Cleveland and Detroit, where painters, sculptors and musicians are emerging as unlikely heroes amid the housing crisis, turning abandoned homes into studios and vacant storefronts into galleries. The creative class has a long tradition of "gentrifying" shabby neighborhoods, but its latest push is being embraced by some urban planners as "a tool to revive neighborhoods reeling from vacancies and home foreclosures." Cleveland is investing $500,000 "to fund 50 citizen-led pilot projects to reclaim vacant property." Projects include "Pop Up City ... which brings performance artists into empty lots, vacant buildings and unused urban infrastructure." There's also a "$30 million drive" to rebrand a "former factory hub as entertainment and arts district." Bob Brown, a Cleveland city planner, comments: "The next phase is capitalizing on the presence of artist and art-related businesses and using it as a lever for high-density development." Skeptics note that artists have a habit of displacing poor people and creating neighborhoods in which they themselves cannot afford to live. However, developer Brian Friedman says that won't happen if projects help artists buy the spaces they occupy. "Our chief goal is ownership," he says. "We don't want the neighborhood to gentrify them out." Here is a great book on New York City on the subject: The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City

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Adams Puryear

Who says that you can't get a street art feel from ceramics? Of course you can! Adams Puryear, whose fabulous ceramic vessels were on display at New York City's Greenwich House Pottery, has a great "low-brow art" (a term I personally object to but oh well) look to his work that is reminiscent of the vibrant creativity we see in graffiti and street art. See for yourself.


Michael Toenges

Michael Toenges is a Cologne, Germany based artist whose paintings make great use of color and light. As he explained at his solo exhibition at the Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston, MA a couple of weeks ago, he paints in twilight type of darkness. And indeed, when the gallery lights were lowered, the paintings glowed. Michael said that he grew up in Germany where there is "northern light" as opposed to Italy where there is brighter "southern light". Although in Italy the light is diffused in a warm and sort of foggy way. Michael's show is up until May 19, 2009 so if you are in Boston, stop by the Howard Yezerski Gallery at 460 Harrison Ave in the new Sowa arts district.

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