Tag Archives: gentrification

DPPI01: Davis Square Tiles

The Davis Square Tiles Project was a Distributed Participatory Public Investigation begun in Somerville, MA in April 2009 as a way to capture gentrification through participants in a mid-80’s public art project. Participants included Katie Hargrave, Nick Jehlen, Jethro Heiko, Meredith Warner, Jeremy Beaudry, and Heath Schultz.

In 1980, Jackson Gregory and Joan Wye of the Belfast Bay Tile Works worked with children aged 5 to 13 at Somerville’s Powderhouse Community School to create 253 tiles that were installed in the Davis Square subway stop. These tiles, part of the Arts on the Line program that placed art in and around MBTA rapid transit stations, present a unique opportunity to look back at how Somerville has changed since the opening of the Red Line extension in 1984. This “Distributed and Participatory Public Investigation” project collected the personal histories of people who created the Davis Square tiles and published them at http://davissquaretilesproject.com/.

This project was initiated by the Think Tank and followed through as a joint effort with The Action Mill. 

25 Texts on “Community” in Question: Conversations on art, activism, and community: Think Tank Reader Vol. IV

25 Texts on “Community” in Question: Conversations on Art, Activism, and Community was developed in April 2009 as Volume IV of the Think Tank's ongoing reader series as a way to explore the idea of community and the assumptions that inform this powerful concept. This reader was created by Katie Hargrave, Heath Schultz, Meredith Warner, Nick Jehlen, Jethro Heiko, and Jeremy Beaudry.

Volume IV in a series of occasional readers by the Think Tank that has yet to be named explores the idea of community and the many assumptions, ambiguities, and boundaries that inform this powerful and oft-cited trope found in contemporary urban society. We believe that to better understand how community is defined — that is, created, delineated, cohered, dissolved, complicated, contested, infiltrated, invaded, and generally transformed — will prove instructive for guiding our — artists’ and activists’ — capacity for collaborating with diverse groups of people in the struggles for social, spatial, and economic justice.

This reader accompanied the walking workshop “Community” in Question: Conversations and readings on art, activism, and community vis-à-vis the Green Line Expansion, which investigated the proposed public transportation expansion (MBTA Green Line) into Somerville-Medford and examined how residents respond to (both for and against) changes in transportation and how transportation affects their cities.

The reader is organized into the following sections: Theoretical discussions on Community, Learning from Activists/Organizers: How to participate in a community, [Common] Space, Artistic responses to Community, Building Communities.

Download the reader → 25 Texts on “Community” in Question: Conversations on art, activism, and community

As an appendix to the reader and to the “Community” in Question project, the Think Tank that has yet to be named also complied History & Resources on the MBTA Green Line Expansion. This is an incomplete but useful glimpse into the historical record regarding the Green Line and Red Line transit expansions in Boston.

Download the appendix → History & Resources on the MBTA Green Line Expansion

“Community” in Question: Conversations and readings on art, activism, and community vis-à-vis the Green Line Expansion

“Community” in Question: Conversations on art, activism, and community was a walking tour exploring the notion of community in early April 2009 for the conference entitled “Convergence: The Intersection of Arts and Activism” at Tufts University. Participants included Katie Hargrave, Heath Schultz, Meredith Warner, Nick Jehlen, Jethro Heiko, and Jeremy Beaudry.

This multi-layered project was presented as part of a conference entitled “Convergence: The Intersection of Arts and Activism” at Tufts University in early April 2009. Co-sponsored by the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and Massachusetts Campus Compact, the conference gathered together artists, activists, and educators interested in social justice and the arts.

The walking tour and conversations investigated the proposed public transportation expansion (MBTA Green Line) into Somerville-Medford and examine how residents respond to (both for and against) changes in transportation. Leaving from the Tufts University campus, our walking and talking followed a portion of the proposed route of the Green Line expansion, visited 2 proposed T stop locations, and then culminated at Davis Square Red Line T stop.

This project proposed to explore the idea of community and the many assumptions, ambiguities, and boundaries that inform this powerful and oft-cited trope. Our project involved two convergent courses of research with respect to community — one general and one topical. Generally, we addressed the nominal subject of the conference: the relationship between art and activism. Topically, we undertook a case study local to Somerville-Medford: the relationship between gentrification and the expansion of Boston’s public transit system.

Turning to the specific and the local, the problems of defining community became very apparent when we considered the proposed expansion of the MBTA Green Line into Somerville and Medford. The expansion, with stops in Union and Ball Squares, proposed to effect the areas immediately surrounding Tufts University, much like the 1980s expansion of the Red Line into Davis Square. By looking into the historical record and colloquial memory surrounding the Davis Square extension, we revealed a precedent for questioning the effects of the newly proposed transit expansion.

The character of Davis Square is said to have changed quite a bit since the completion of the Red Line station in 1984. More money and business came to the Square, more public art and new infrastructure; but with this also came increasing rents that, when coupled with the loss of rent control and other public housing assistance, ultimately displaced lower income residents away from the new station. This indicated a tension between the desire for more public transportation with the potential gentrifying consequences of such public transportation expansion– especially those expansions that connect high-end urban centers with outlying neighborhoods. We hoped to examine how residents respond to (both for and against) changes in transportation and how transportation effects their cities and neighborhoods in order to further investigate key questions about the nature of community.

The tools and tactics used to execute these overlapping analyses of community were: creating an educational reader on community, organizing PHPM’s within Somerville-Medford involving key stakeholders of the MBTA expansion, and facilitating a workshop within the Convergence conference that created a dialogue in order to frame a critical conversation with conference participants about the notion of community and how artists (and activists) engage productively in the communities.

Download the reader → 25 Texts on “Community” in Question: Conversations on art, activism, and community

Download the appendix → History & Resources on the MBTA Green Line Expansion

Dissecting the Sector

Dissecting the Sector was an intervention within a larger community conversation called “Culture, Creativity and the City.” This project asked the question “Can art cause harm?” as a way to open a conversation about the use of art as a tool for revitalization and community development. It was conceived of by Meredith Warner and supported by Jeremy Beaudry and Jethro Heiko.

On September 9, 2007 a “Town Hall Meeting” was hosted at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia called “Culture, Creativity and the City.” The event was described as “a rousing and important community dialogue began. At the heart of this dialogue were many of the core questions and ideas about how we, as Philadelphians, can harness the energy of the Creative Sector to consolidate Philadelphia revitalization and create the conditions to drive the economy.” This event related directly to the Think Tank’s previous investigation called “Scrutinizing the Cartography of Talent,” a Publicly Held Private Meeting.

The Think Tank drafted a series of questions that were printed and distributed on notecards at the event. Questions included: What is the fundamental ideological purpose of art? How do we create a space for cultural freedom? Can art cause harm? The stack of questions was passed to the moderator during the panel discussion and the last question, regarding harm, was asked of the panelists. The questions themselves were conceived of in response to author Julian Stallbrass being interviewed on Against the Grain. The questions were derived from his thoughts on the subject of art and commerce.

Listen to the moderator ask the question here.

At the “Culture, Creativity and the City” event, an audience member passed in a comment that “Philadelphia should become the Creative Capital of the East Coast.” When read to the crowd, it was followed by a bolstered cheer. But Philadelphia has been the murder capital of the East Coast. Doesn’t that count for anything? If there is a direct correlation between the well-being of a city and the amount of public art made available to its citizenry, then how it is that Philadelphia, which boasts more public art than any other city in the nation, is also leading the nation in murder? Either the correlation is false, or the art that is being implemented for this purpose is a failure. Is the notion of the “creative economy” nothing more than a scrim? What hides behind that scrim, who is directing the backstage? Who benefits from the thin veil of our city’s arty surface? And what is really happing in Philadelphia when you peek behind the art to see the city for what it is?

22 Readings on Artists & Gentrification: Think Tank Reader Vol. II

22 Readings on Artists & Gentrification was was developed as Volume II of the Think Tank's reader series in July 2007. It interogates our understanding of our relationship to the place where we live and the effect we (un)intentionally have on those place because of our role as artists, activists, and citizens. This reader was compiled by Meredith Warner, Jeremy Beaudry, and Lena Helen.

Volume II in the Think Tank’s reader series compiles several texts which discuss issues related to artists, gentrification, the urban environment, and the so-called creative class. These issues are important to our understanding of our relationship to the place where we live (Philadelphia) and the effect we (un)intentionally have on this place as artists, activists, and citizens.

Download the reader  22 Readings on Artists & Gentrification

The Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future: PUBLIC HEARING

The Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future was a Public Hearing held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia as part of the "Locally Localized Gravity" exhibition in March 2007. The dialogue was an investigation of the language used to describe the state of Philadelphia and its future, as put forward by the ICA and other journalistic and cultural institutions. The project was conceived of by Meredith Warner and Lena Helen together with Rozalinda Borcilla, Sarah Lewison and Julie Wyman (as Be Like Water).

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On Saturday, March 10, 2007, the Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future held a Public Hearing to gather facts, information and testimony as part of an investigation into the propagation and circulation of the allegedly misrepresentative language that has appeared in the public and journalistic record. The audience was invited to be investigators, offer evidence, and act as a witnesses throughout the proceedings.

The subject of the hearing included, but was not restricted to, the following:

  • The nature and demographics of the city of Philadelphia.
  • The transparent and participatory nature of certain institutions and current and future initiatives associated with the city of Philadelphia.
  • The condition for artists and cultural workers in the city of Philadelphia.
  • The condition and status of working people and/or residents of the city of Philadelphia.
  • The nature of democracy and democratic process.

The following witnesses provided testimony: Carolyn Thomas, Philadelphia resident, featured in documentary “All for the Taking”, Nijmie Dzurenko of the Media Mobilizing Project, Mark Warshaw an Organizer for the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, and Rozalinda Borcila, artist and participant in Locally Localized Gravity exhibition at ICA Philadelphia, co-author of “Past Futures”.

The Coalition of Inquiry into the State of the Future is an effort established by Invested Artists, Activists and Social Thinkers. Lena Helen and Meredith Warner acted to represent the Think Tank that is yet to be named, with the support, testimony, and submitted evidence of Jeremy Beaudry and Jethro Heiko. They acted together with BLW (artists Rozalinda Borcila, Sarah Lewison and Julie Wyman).

31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation (in the Month of January): Think Tank Reader Vol. I

31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation was developed as the first volume of the Think Tank's reader series in January of 2007. The texts compiled discuss issues of activism and participation in contemporary art practices. It was compiled by Meredith Warner and Jeremy Beaudry.

This reader compiles several texts which discuss issues of activism and participation in contemporary art practices. As artists and activists, these issues are important to our understanding and development of our art practices vis-a-vis our involvement in the communities we live in. As the inaugural edition of the Think Tank’s reader series, we read an article a day during the month of January, organically making our way from one text to the next in an investigation of why we do what we do.

We created this first reader as a resource for others who are interested in exploring these issues. We participate in the Academy, both as students and educators, and we have some nagging questions: What is the state of (art) education today? How much does a college education cost? Who has access to it? Who doesn’t? Who controls it? What is being taught? How do the economic models that institutions rely on affect affect students, teachers, and critical inquiry in general? How are conventional pedagogical models beholden to notions of “careerism,” “expertise,” and “specialization?” How is a college degree really valued?

Download the reader → 31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation

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A poster of notable excerpts from each of the 31 readings is also available.

Download the poster Highlights from 31 Readings on Art, Activism & Participation