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Deconstructing Gentrification: LA’s Art Culture

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Art frame encompassing gentrification through the term “whiteness”.

Art frame encompassing gentrification through the term “whiteness”.

Art frame encompassing gentrification through the term “whiteness”.

Julianna Rizo, Copy Editor

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Los Angeles has been the forefront of the art industry for the past 100+ years. From the first developments of the California art genre, to over 800 modern museums such as The Broad and LACMA, LA has inspired higher artistic movements and genres and will continue to for as long as we can imagine.  

The Los Angeles art scene has been built by Angelito culture and diversity. The Chicano and Mexican mural movement developed the iconic scenery of LA streets and corporations.

But in recent years, the art culture of Los Angeles has been slowly intimidated by gentrification. These changes have influenced the whitewashing of many pre-developed art cities. White professionals and artists are now interested in the low-cost living and accommodating transit that is available within these predominantly Latino and Black low-income communities.

One city that has been taken by storm due to media attention and collected activism is Boyle Heights. The city, along with many others, seems to be California’s present center of artwashing and gentrification, with multiple cases of forced displacement every year for the past decade.

Not only are affluent individuals benefiting from cheaper (or what they would consider “cheaper”) resources, they can now make lower studio investments. Multiple white-owned and run art galleries have begun to dominate the city, along with hundreds of eviction notices to accommodate the gallery spaces.

Boyle Heights activist, Angel De La Luna, explains that non-white and original city residents “do not want you [white-renters and art-gallery owners] here [Boyle Heights]. There are economic consequences to” the displacers presence in the city. He believes working-class, blue-collar Latinx residents will suffer from these changes while white-collar, upper-class displacers will benefit from their shortcomings.

Organizations such as Boyle HEIGHTS ALIANZA ANTI ARTWASHING Y DESPLAZAMIENTO (BHAAAD, Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement) encompass a handful of activist communities such as Union de Vecinos, Defend Boyle Heights, Multiple Affinity Groups of Artists, School of Echoes Los Angeles, and The Eastside Local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union.

Nancy Meza, an organizer of one of BHAAAD’s partner activist collectives, Defend Boyle Heights, believes that “gentrification” is a form of “displacement [and] white supremacy…These galleries are coming in and trying to replace the current culture that is already in Boyle Heights.They are not looking to attract members of our communities.”

BHAAAD simplifies their struggle and fight, explaining on their website that “galleries need to communicate and talk with the community about how they are going to help fight displacement. If they drive our rents up, we’re not going to be able to be here. It’s not fair. Having struggled so long, we don’t deserve to be ignored, nor to be driven out of our community.”

As the art community continuously expands in Los Angeles, supporters, artists and attendants must be aware and conscientious of the origins of these gallery locations. The roots of empowerment and political change within art cannot be misplaced in an effort to selfishly support already affluent organizers, who in no way, can benefit from the raw meaning of the arts. If art may be used during these instances, only its true purpose will be permitted to shine through.

Art cannot be the face of modern colonization. It shall not be exploited as a form of materialistic capitalism, nor shall it be abused to encourage the abuse of already weakened communities.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Deconstructing Gentrification: LA’s Art Culture”

  1. anon on May 18th, 2017 1:30 pm

    I love the way your article turned out, I feel like it addresses the issues with gentrification and the privileged white dominant art scene (and the background on it is great). I feel like many people don’t understand the effect it is having on people and its good to spotlight what is actually happening.

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