The right to the city is a cultural right as much as it is a political and social one. Over the past fifty years, capitalism has dramatically changed the character and rhythm of the city. As rents have gone up and schools have been neglected and privatized, our alienation from urban environments has been underlined. This is illustrated and concentrated in the relationship of both governments working and poor people to art.
As the urban core is gentrified, struggling artists, musicians and writers are displaced alongside people of color and the poor. Even as mid-level and DIY art and performance spaces are shuttered and culture workers struggle from lack of government spending on the arts, artists and their art are frequently used (consciously and/or unconsciously) as a key part in gentrification projects. Recent protests of art galleries expanding into working-class neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color underline the problem.
Strategies to counter the use of art in gentrification are not merely about the defense of art as a concept; they are about the defense of art as a right in how working people engage with and shape their environments. They must take into account the political and material realities of multiple (overlapping) constituencies. This includes reckoning with the current political and economic state of art, music, literature and culture in the neoliberal age, their weakened position in relation to both the forces that commodify it and movements for genuine liberation. This panel will examine the current conjuncture of art and geographic political economy, and suggest strategies that re-engage working people with their right to expression and liberation.