turning up the art washing machine (timothy dingman)

All of us know the beneficial effects of the migration of artists and the arts to urban areas most often characterized as “undeserved,” “blighted” or “low rent.”Low rent is exactly what it means.  Properties have deteriorated, property values do the same.  Why did Picasso (it’s his birthday today, Oct. 25), Picabia, Brach and many of those we now think of as great modern artists, lived and worked in the “slums” of Monmarte and not in apartments on the Champs Elysee .

As I have argued many times in the past, sustainable arts communities are developed from the bottom up, not the top down (see Eric Raymond’s essay, “the Cathedral and the Bazaar). I acknowledge that is it true that the in influx of artists and the arts to a troubled neighborhood will slowly, gradually lead to what is called “gentrification” and is truly rehabilitation.  If this process is instigated from the top down it is “Art Washing.”  It is putting a veneer art, of promoting and supporting the arts on an organized program, to increase property values in a targeted area.  The Rockerfellers did this in Lower Manhattan from the 30’s to the 70’s with obvious success.  I regret the rent refugees and the pricing out of artists but we all know that “things change.”

My question - Is Art Washing already a reality in Newark?  In my opinion it is a real danger.  The influence and money for the arts is controlled by a few major corporations and educational institutions.  This influence and money is further concentrated in a few square blocks of the city and a small roster of “safe” artists.  Artfront Galleries is proud to support the “Monmartes” of Newark by promoting non-profit exhibitions in these areas.

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