I’m Coming Up, I Want The World To Know. Let’s Talk Gentrification And The Arts.

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I grew up in Kapan, a small town in the south of Soviet Armenia where gentrification was and still is an alien concept. Nowadays, Kapan is a mere shadow of once a vibrant industrial town, and quite frankly could do with a healthy dose of gentrification.

In stark contrast to my childhood, my adult years were spent in cities (Moscow, London, New York) where gentrification was taking place in front of my eyes and was quite often a topic of heated dinner table discussions amongst idealistic twenty-somethings.

Depending on who is involved in the discussion, the word can have both positive and negative connotation. On the one hand, the influx of funds helps improve neighborhoods, schools, and community centers. On the other, it strips those neighborhoods of their history, original charm and identity by forcing out people who have lived and grown up there.

A lot has been written about how art contributes to this process (think of Soho in the 70s, West Chelsea in the 90s and Bushwick in the 2000s in New York City, Boyle Heights in LA, Wynwood in Miami). For art lovers, and those always on the hunt for new murals, gentrification means more access to, and exposure for, talented artists, whose work may not have been discovered otherwise. The other side of this conversation exhibits negative consequences, where equally talented emerging artists are unable to afford studio and living space in these neighborhoods. This affects both the younger generation of artists as galleries choose trendier, more expensive peers over them, and also affects the older generation of artists who are being forced to sell their life-long homes thanks to increase in living expenses.

How do we solve this puzzle so that people who have built these communities can remain within them rather than be forced out of their own neighborhoods; the very neighborhoods whose character and vibrancy is all thanks to them. This should be an inclusionary process involving governments, artists and investors. Governments who should consider the needs of local communities when granting tax brakes and changing zoning rules; artists who should not only think about financial profits, but rather the messaging and power of their commissioned work; and investors who should work with stakeholders in local communities to ensure that low-income residents benefit from their investments instead of being displaced from them.

Anna Oganesyan, Head of Business Development

Portugal Passes ‘Right to Housing’ Law; which seeks to curb runaway gentrification in Lisbon and elsewhere by prioritizing affordable housing and stopping evictions, among other measures.

The Lowline, situated in the Lower East Side of NYC, and once home to the Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal, is the first solar technology empowered underground park in the world.

How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood” (2017) by Peter Moskowitz

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