VCS alumna Shellyne Rodriguez recently launched the site Boogie Down Liberation Front: Promoting World Barrio Power… Art * Politics * Critical Thought; the site’s first entry is “Bulldozers & Crain’s,” her pointed and thorough critique of a recent article in Crain’s New York Business on art, economics, and real estate development in the Bronx. Among other things, Shellyne discusses how the Crain’s article and others like it treat local art scenes in places like the Bronx as little more than a barometer for gentrification, a sign to developers that a neighborhood is ripe for investment and speculation. She also points out the frequent complicity of local artists and art institutions in the process of gentrification, and looks at the possibility for artists in the Bronx to resist development and displacement.
Here are two brief excerpts:
Given the state of affairs in the Bronx regarding art and real estate, an article such as the one published in Crain’s New York with the title “Bye Bye Bushwick: The Bronx is the City’s Next New Art Scene,” is not surprising. The fact that her artists aren’t considered on the pages of Art News or any other publication dedicated to discussing cultural production and instead are relegated to a discussion about “up-and-coming-neighborhoods” reveals the precarious nature The Bronx currently finds herself in. In the X, the pre-existing arts communities at this moment in time, are only considered through the lens of real estate speculation and this will not change unless we collectively refuse to allow our work to be positioned in this context.
In essence, the Crain’s article behaves like an infomercial, which utilizes the local art scene in the Bronx as a selling point for its readers. The tone of the article wants to convey to its readers that it’s okay to buy property in the Bronx because the artists have paved the way. Its okay to evict that bodega and offer the lease to the coffee boutique at double the price. You will have an audience. The local Bronx artists and college students have expensive taste and they will keep you afloat until the good tenants arrive.
The ideology behind this article is sort of an old trick that somehow keeps working. The old Richard Florida concept of relying on the creative class for “urban regeneration.”
These quotes only scratch the surface of Shellyne’s critique, so I encourage you to check out the full essay at Boogie Down Liberation Front