[From Stencil Archive: At what point is public art part of the problem of gentrification? When is corporate manipulation and intrusion too much for a community to bear? Can public art be created without thinking about the environment, the wall it is painted on, and the community in mind? What are the limits of making money for one's art as opposed to the created pieces being part of the problem of massive evictions and migrations of lower-income and working class populations? These questions have been stewing for months now, and there is surprisingly little writing on these issues. Megan Wilson, co-curator of the Clarion Alley Mural Project, pushes back and contemplates these sometimes blurry lines between selling out and paying the rent. Below is an essay she wrote that touches on some of the above questions. For a much better version, with photographs and links, please go to stretcher and read the original. Thanks, Megan, for allowing a repost of this important angle on some of the behind-the-scenes manipulations that are going on in the condo-boomtown that is San Francisco.]
The Gentrification of our Livelihoods: Everything Must Go…
by Megan Wilson
Preface: When I began researching and writing The Gentrification of our Livelihoods in early March 2014 one of my primary interests was the impact that the collaboration between Intersection for the Arts and developer Forest City’s creative placemaking 5M Project is having on the existing communities that have invested in and called the South of Market home prior to the tech booms. Having worked with many community-based organizations within the SoMa community for the past 18 years, I’ve had deep concerns about the development’s impact for the neighborhood and its impact on the future of Intersection.
However, I would not have predicted the announcement that Intersection made on May 22nd to cut its arts, education, and community engagement programs and lay off its program staff would come as soon as it did. What began as a reflection on the shortcomings of creative placemaking as a tool for economic development and its implications on gentrification and community displacement has become a cautionary tale for arts and community organizations to question and better understand the potential outcomes of working with partners whose interests are rooted in financial profit.