Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Artists, Urban Blight and Gentrification

There's a very interesting discussion of the possibilities and limitations of artists as agents of urban renewal, both in and beyond Detroit, on The Clyde Fitch Report.  The author begins with his admiration for Richard Florida and the notion of  "the creative class," but ends on a more critical and complex note--that he's "all for the creative economy," but "wants a diverse economy as well."

A useful comparison is the Wall Street Journal's wholly uncritical perspective. In a recent piece, "Artists vs. Blight," the Journal re-recruited artists as "leaders of an urban vanguard that colonizes blighted areas."    What's at stake in this recruitment was made clear in a quote from the director of Cleveland's City Planning Commission:  "At first, the strategy was (placing artists in) old warehouses, now it's whole neighborhoods ... The next phase is capitalizing on the presence of artist and art-related businesses and using it as the lever for high-density development."  This is, of course, precisely the sort of development that aims to render the urban vanguard once again homeless...

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