We’ve finally settled into a place in NYC, a cool little place in the Upper West Side bordering on Harlem. The apartment search took us through one of NYC’s hippest, coolest, trendiest neighborhoods (Williamsburg) which really only is an excuse to charge $2000 for a meat locker with exposed cracked concrete floors and chipping lead paint coming off the exposed brick. However, these sorts of spaces are godsends to artists as we saw another place that was equally dilapidated for an equally ridiculous price.
This brought up an idea about gentrification that wasn’t immediately obvious to me before: artists play an important role in the revitalization of a community. And it’s not just any artists, I figure that they are predominately white, college educated artists.
It feels like a cycle. A nice neighborhood turns bad when poor people move into it. Poor neighborhood gets better when they evict all the poor people and let young professionals move in. The gap in the concept is how a poor neighborhood gets better and that’s where the artists come in.
Through the works, ideas and concepts they create, they are able to give the area culture, which is the type of social currency that draws capital to the area in the form of galleries, restaurants and bars. The reason why an artist from the displaced community couldn’t produce the same amount of social currency is the product of prejudices and discrimination in the form of what “art” is to the people who consume it.