Artists and gentrification in specific urban contexts. A case study from Wiliamsburg, New York


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This article present a case study of artists' role in urban development processes. The focus is upon an evacuation process from a factory building where about 250 artists lived and worked, and how they managed to get back into the building some months later. We put this event into the context of social and urban development processes in Williamsburg, New York. We know well how artists often are looked upon as "pioneers" in gentrification processes, but we know less about how artists are "thrown" into different positions: as victims, as creative resources in cultural strategies, innovation, and so on. There is a need for an analysis on artists' possible role as "brakes" in gentrification processes, in the meaning of not having the means for physical upgrading the residential and industrial sites. Most often artists let buildings and facilities keep the state just necessary for living and working. This also means that non- affluent people can stay in the neighborhood, because living costs in the area are kept to an acceptable level. In this case, we find that artists and a local community in Williamsburg together may represent a brake for gentrification. As research methods we use personal interviewing of artists and representatives of community organizations, document analysis, and visual documentation of the urban landscapes in question (photo, video). This article, which is is the first publication from this study, will be followed by a deeper analysis and dissemination later on.


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