Tag Archives: art in gentrification

Markusen, A. (2006). Urban development and the politics of a creative class: evidence from a study of artists. _Environment and Planning A,_ 38(10):1921-1940.

In this piece, Markusen critically addresses Richard Florida’s methodology, looks closer at artists as workers and residents, sees where the previous two jibe, examines how the arts organize in cities — where and how they work, and their role in gentrification — and finally, makes recommendations about pro-arts planning.

Richard Florida, famous for his anointing the creative class with his 2002 The Rise of the Creative Class, asserts that the new creative class has overtaken virtually all other classes, both collars and the wealthy, and that they prefer high-tech locations in amenity-filled, diverse cities. Markusen says hold on. “Creativity” is a fuzzy concept from the start, which Florida confuses even further by his use of occupational code statuses (i.e. he includes managers from some questionably creative categories, but omits such groups as tailors, millwrights, etc.) Second, he generalizes from select anecdotes, which is just a problem anywhere. Third, his regressions show a relationship between the creative class and high-tech, which has a few foundational flaws. Glaeser (2004) included educational attainment into Florida’s regressions and his erstwhile significant relationships, notably his gay index, were all gone. He further uses metropolitan areas, which cast a much wider net. Consider Silicon Valley — nowhere is more high-tech and its built landscape is very suburban, homogenous. His “glib treatment of diversity is particularly troubling” (1923) since he uses same-sex male households reporting as partners as a proxy for overall diversity. Both Clark (2004) and Glaeser (2004 find this “gay index” really to be correlated to education, one, and two, most Americans would agree that diversity, while inclusive of it, extends beyond sexual identity to include race, ethnicity, migrant presence, economic class mix, etc. Overall, there’s an issue of causality that lingers and Markusen’s biggest issue is the “seriously flawed conceptual treatment of creativity. Human creativity cannot be conflated with years of schooling…. It is simply incorrect, and indeed dangerous, to label people in large lumpy occupational groupings such as managers and professional workers as creative, and others–all production and service workers, for instance–as not creative” (1924).

Richard’s virtue is that he does see creativity as embedded in occupations, though, so Markusen studies discrete occupations to discover migration behavior, socioeconomic characteristics, and why artists migrate, to where, and how they relate with and to their communities.

The two reasons for location: (1) demand from artist-hiring commercial sectors, and (2) conscious lifestyle choice to promote one’s artistic development. The latter is possible because artists are more apt to be self-employed — they have high amounts of contractual work and direct access to consumers. Therefore, artists are “more footloose and apt to choose a place to live before committing to employment or marketing efforts” (1926).

Artists have comprised a growing occupation in the US in the last 30 years. There was a surge following new pro-arts funding of the 60s (e.g. Ford Foundation, the NEA, regional corporate funding), which was hampered during the 90s Culture Wars’ crippling of NEA funding. The upshot was a re-concentration of artists in the top three most artistic cities: New York, LA, and San Francisco.

Migrational findings:

  • urban economies both attract and homegrow artists
  • artists move between and within cities, and between cities and rural areas at relatively high rates (per the 2010 NEA “Creative Placemaking” panel, this migration is also generational)
  • educational institutions and cultural organizations skew spatial distributions
  • artists’ decisions are thought-out and deeply researched
  • where: toward denser cities, transitional neighborhoods
  • why: art schools, performance and exhibition spaces, affordable live/work and studio space, training institutions, artists’ centers, and amenities (nightlife, recreational)
  • how: ratio of men to women is higher, more apt to rent than own, whiter than their workforce as a whole, and highly educated as a group; while they might be poor, they can live in households with very high incomes

Markusen’s findings jibe with Florida’s regarding artists’ intermetropolitan, intraurban, socioeconomic characteristics, though the relationship to high-tech is unclear and his emphasis on agglomeration (1) overlooks precise locations and (2) inspires urban megaprojects, a la the Bilbao Effect.

Her research finds artists use smaller spaces, some permanent and some temporary for their work more than any one given institution. There are three artist-centric spaces, all incubators, spaces for exchange and debate. Creativity is not a zero-sum game.

“…this nurturing of artists may strengthen regional and neighborhood economies in ways that magnify their contribution to equity, stability, and diversity. Such spaces are a relatively underappreciated element in the urban economy and deserve to be studied and appreciated” (1935).

  • artists’ centers: offer conversations, classes, mentoring, shared workspace and tools, and where exhibits, readings, and performances take place; involve dedicated space that is available for ongoing visits, where membership and access to many events is available to all comers, and where other artistic functions are available on a more selective, often openly competitive basis
  • artists’ live/work and studio buildings: conversion of former industrial buildings converted into artists’ studios or live/work units; initiators of transformations are often artists themselves; conversions involve tax credits, city loans, and land or building write-downs
  • smaller scale performing arts venues: these provide the opportunities for an important segment of artists to learn their craft and network; for the “real time” enterprises that can’t be installed, stored, etc.; are often adaptively reused buildings

Artists, though linked with gentrification, are generally diametrically opposed, politically, to conservative development efforts. “But for the most part, artists are adamant in their support for more decentralized, neighborhood-based theaters, galleries, and other artist-centered spaces” (1936). Artists are social actors, not gentrifiers.

Conclusions: be more nuanced. (1) Major downtown projects aren’t the best approach. (2) Really look at who’s bringing in the money. (3) And if it’s the artistic community, then there are different approaches.

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LLoyd, R. (2005). 2005. _Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City_. New York and London: Routledge.

In this book-sized expansion of his Wicker Park case study, Lloyd goes a bit deeper into the qualitative analysis, particularly in his interviews, of the neo-bohemian lifestyle, and expands on his “artist as useful labor” theory.

“…neo-bohemia is not a reified natural area but rather a mode of contingent and embedded spatial practices” (245).

Constituent to this theory is the fact that neo-bohemias are antithetical to David Brooks’ (2001) “bourgeois bohemians,” or “BoBos,” whose consumer practices only track with postindustrial neoliberal capitalism practices. Instead, neo-bohemians exhibit an “elective affinity” (241) between their artistic, do-it-yourself ethos and neoliberal capitalism’s entrepreneurial impulses. The artist, then, is useful labor in this Internet-based, image-conscious economy. Just as neo-bohemia’s residents understand themselves through identification in and with their communities, and their own “subcultural capital” (243) provides them access to status and money, art has become the “MacGuffin for [contemporary] postindustrial economic activities” (244).

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Lloyd, R. (2004). The neighborhood in cultural production: Material and symbolic resources in the new bohemia. _City & Community_, 3(4): 343–372.

Using Wicker Park as a case study, Lloyd asks, what benefits exist in creative neighborhoods to artists? And how “does the space of neo-bohemia operate in the organization and deployment of labor power?” (345). Neo-bohemias are to Lloyd more important in the transition into the postmodern condition than were the Murgerian (1851) bohemias of modernity.

Neo-bohemias take acute advantage of post-industrial spaces and neighborhoods, the implications of which are pronounced. The neo-bohemia is not a rejection or negation of capitalism but magnifies capital interests (as exemplified in gentrification), and the development and agglomeration of new industries, many digital media. Creative industry members collaborate and cluster, thus largely bearing the cost of their own production. Their local ecology draws together residence, work, and showroom/performance spaces, creating manifest and identifiable settings for identification by “extra-local corporate interest, who recruit talent and co-opt cultural productions from these settings at their discretion” (348).

Lloyd identifies material benefits (e.g. cheap live/work space, creative exposure, local/flexible/desirable employment) and symbolic supports (e.g. identification as artist). However, there are conflicts and contradictions. Wicker Park is not like Park and Burgess’ (1921) community ecology because it’s deeply embedded in the mode of capitalist production, and the competitive dynamics are certainly shaped by forces of global capital accumulation. Moreover, gentrification may increase the cost of living, but that contributes to the creation of the new and desirable employment opportunities. Per Irwin (1977), some have to move out: “subcultural articulations have limited ‘carrying capacities’ that can be overwhelmed by an access of participants clamoring for inclusion” (367). Of note: those most upset about gentrification were the newest arrivals to the neighborhood (Huebner, 1994), illustrating Rosaldo’s (1989) “imperialist nostalgia.”

Finally, the underlying contradiction. For Logan and Molotch (1987 [2007 in this blog]), the growth machine players have no local interests. Theirs are telegraphed, profits-only considerations of entrepreneurs and the like. Here, the entrepreneur is also a resident.

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Lloyd, R. (2002). Neo-bohemia: Art and neighborhood redevelopment in Chicago. _Journal of Urban Affairs_, 24(5): 517-532.

Richard Lloyd, PhD Sociology University of Chicago, is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University. His areas of expertise are urban sociology, sociology of culture, social theory, sociology of art, work and occupations, social change, and political sociology.

This article is Lloyd’s first publication from his ethnographic study of Chicago’s alternative enclave, Wicker Park, from 1999-2001, from which he developed the concept of the “neo-bohemia.” Spending those two years as participant observer, attending a wide range of events, and conducting long, open-ended interviews with approximately three dozen informants, Lloyd determined that the socio-spatial reformations within neo-bohemias belie much postmodern theory regarding the organization of the city, the spectacular (Sorkin, 1992) and the decentralized (Soja, 1989).

“The city remains a place where people actually live, not just visit” (519).

Therefore, Lloyd suggests, instead of conceiving culture as a strictly consumable commodity, we should start to investigate “the new intersections of consumption and production in consumption and production in urban space” (ibid).

The three trends he observes in Wicker Park (and expands upon in his 2004 paper “The Neighborhood in Cultural Production: Material and Symbolic Resources in the New Bohemia”):

  1. the displacement of manufacturing and adaptive reuse;
  2. the intensifying commodification of culture, produced and consumed locally, as well as exported; and
  3. the increasing valorization of artists’ human capital.

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Smith, N. (1996). _The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City_. London and New York: Routledge.

Neil Smith, Geography PhD from Johns Hopkins University, is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center department of CUNY. He studied under David Harvey, so he shares a Marxian perspective of political economy, urban social theory, space, nature-culture, and history and theory of geography. He examines globalization and consequent uneven development at the local and global scales.

In The New Urban Frontier, Smith confronts the term “frontier” and demythologizes the use of it and “pioneer” in contemporary American (and global) development. He views gentrification as a decidedly bad thing, the “product of political economic shifts in local and global markets” (92), which has been vigorously undertaken by production-side, capital interests since the 1960s. These revanchist (from the French revanche, “revenge”) city interests are aggressively re-taking the city, regenerating it, cleansing it, and re-infusing it with middle-class standards.

This gentrification process takes place at the frontiers between improving and disinvested communities. It “infects working class communities, displaces poor households, and converts whole neighborhoods into bourgeois enclaves” (17). Smith proposes the rent gap as the functional tool. Producers (e.g. builders, developers, landlords, mortgage lenders, government agencies, real estate agents, etc.) use the “disparity between potential ground rent level and actual ground rent capitalized under present land use” (67) as the justification for their development.

This is an economically, not culturally, driven process of collective social action — proponents call it “urban renaissance” — manifests in distinctly uneven development patterns. These local contingencies are also global: they reflect the implications of global capital flows and are becoming standardized (with local flavorings, of course) all over the world.

Things to note:

  • governments are active agents of gentrification (recall Logan & Molotch, 2007)
  • current residents are in Catch-22 positions: they like seeing their neighborhoods improve and thus welcome investmentyet they will be promptly priced out once improvements are completed
  • gentrification flows up unnaturally, against filtering down (see Zukin, 2010)
  • “degentrification” will likely not happen

Smith believes:

“…we can expect a deepening villainization of working-class, minority, homeless, and many immigrant residents of the city, through interlocking streams of violence, drugs, and crime” (230).

Finally, an interesting point about the arts: its role in gentrification has been no accident. Per Deutsche and Ryan (1984), it “has been constructed with the aid of the entire apparatus of the establishment (as cited on 18-19). Some have remained progressive political agents, but some avant-garde artists have behaved as “brokers” (19) between the culture industry and artistic hopefuls. “Good art and good locations become fused. And good location means money” (20).

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