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MAKING THEIR OWN PLANS
SEPTEMBER 7, 2005 1:36 AM

I have been reading this book: . It's about different projects that have engaged people to reclaim public space is some way, while working outside the framework of an institution. I wish I had read this book sooner, particularly while i was working on my Agrifitti project [read more].

The book is actually two books. Read one, flip it upside-down, and read the other. Brett Bloom writes in an introduction in both, and about The Spot in Belltown Paradise. Tonight, I also read an interview he conducted with a couple of others, entitled The Folds of an Institution. I found it very blunt, in that he talks about all the shit that goes along with working within an institution. It was also very inspiring, because the DAAC has also engaged in similar conversation, as we have been courted by larger institutions - which we declined for many of the reasons Bloom talks about in the interview [ie the oppresiveness of institutions].

This is not an novel idea, I mean most of you reading this - we all operate with this mentality everyday. I mean how DIY is G-Rad, the DAAC, etc. But I think it is interesting how he relates this idea to the 'art world.' But he brings up many good ideas: 1) How do you find a way to be autonomous within an institution and 2) If you spend so much time working in opposition of an institution, isn't it just an extension of their power?

Last summer I really wanted to tour the country and document the stories of DIY spaces/projects - very similar to this book. I would really love to have Brett Bloom come to Grand Rapids and speak. I think I will consult him on how to halt gentrification on the 100 block of S. Division, or at least offer an alternative.

Not to argue or anything, im more playing the devils advocate here, but what is the use of stopping the Gentrification on 100 s. division? What are the gains for stopping it as opposed to the losses? I know why gentrification is bad, I know why it is good. But what would really be the outcome if that block was completely gentrified? This is Grand Rapids, Not Harlem or the Bronx.

docbeezy | September 7, 2005 1:43 PM

i think there is nothing but losses when it comes to gentrification, from my point of view - though it does mean bling bling for new business.

Division has been home to homeless, almost homeless, artists, mentally ill, young people, etc for the last 40 years. Things are changing, obviously. But, ideally, Division will be a place where all these people can still exist, even along a $150,000 condo.

The reason I brought gentrification up in this post, is that the city and private companies like the Dwelling Place are investing in this area - but my question is, how do we operate within the rules of these institutions to achieve something different than the expected next stage - gentrification - OR - how can we operate outside of these institutions to achieve certain goals that are favorable to past, present and future residents of S. Division.

benner | September 7, 2005 6:02 PM

isn't the goal of institutions like dwelling place also to prevent gentrification in this area? do you think it is still important to stay autonomous o them to some degree, even though you share some of the same goals?

nina | September 7, 2005 7:00 PM

"Division has been home to homeless, almost homeless, artists, mentally ill, young people, etc for the last 40 years. Things are changing, obviously."-bennr

Ok, but,once again to play devils advocate, arent these people less important than say, fixing up the city and bringing in new revenue? We live in a capitalistic society, these people have very little, if anything to contribute to that.

also......

"how do we operate within the rules of these institutions to achieve something different than the expected next stage - gentrification - OR - how can we operate outside of these institutions to achieve certain goals that are favorable to past, present and future residents of S. Division."

I dont think any of that even matters. Gentrification is good for the people that matter, bad for the people that dont matter, and well since they dont matter, who cares? And, what is favorable for the future residents of division st (who, remember, are important) is that they gentrify the fuck out of that street. Its good for them and the city. Its good for Vertigo, its Good for the DAAC, its good for My video Shoppe etc.. I would rather see those places stay and prosper than, share it with the homeless, and not do that well with their business.

docbeezy | September 8, 2005 9:41 AM

I'm not arguing against economic development, just displacement.

benner | September 8, 2005 12:34 PM

They go hand in hand. Cant have one without some form of the other really.

For the record, a lot of my views are on par with yours, just more bringing up the discussion.

docbeezy | September 8, 2005 1:45 PM

I think you are wrong, traditionally displacement and gentrification have gone hand in hand. But they do not rely on one another for their process to take place.

there has to be an alternative to gentrification, maybe what i am talk about is not gentrification any more -

benner | September 8, 2005 2:44 PM

well, I guess they do not rely on eachother, no, but that is usually the way it is.

I would like to see something happen, that has the positive effects from gentrification, but none of the negative, such as displacement. ahh yes, but that is not possible.

docbeezy | September 8, 2005 11:46 PM

People mean quite a variety of things with the word gentrification, but usually mean to incluce the displacement of previous, often poor, inhabitants because they can no longer afford the 'rehabilitated' area.

I'm curious for an example of a person who doesn't matter. (Even more curious for your criteria).

By the way, it certainly is possible to revitalize a neighborhood without displacing the poor.

bnjmn | September 10, 2005 4:53 PM

I think one of the most interesting things regarding this discussion is what will happen to this stretch of Division in the next few years. Who will be there, who will not. Who has a right to that place, who does not. Obviously, the values of the neighborhood will change as the inhabitants of the neighborhood change.

And that begs the question of "is the change welcome?" Do we want this neighborhood to change. This part of town (Division) was abandoned 40-50 years ago in favor of 28th street, the suburbs and greener economic pastures. It was this vaccuum that made it suitable for the chronically homeless, addicts and other down-and-out folks to reside there and for social services to take root.

But now the city is being reinhabited. Businesses are moving back in downtown, money is coming into city coffers, people are walking around and the city is getting on it's feet. I think what Docbeezy was trying to get at is that this abandoned part of the city is being reclaimed, and is that really wrong? This is not a neighborhood that has had homeowners and a strong community of dedicated neighbors in the traditional sense. The neighborhoods of Chicago and New York that have dissolved due to gentrification were communities of concerned citizens who had made homes and raised families in their communites, they were not shelters for people who will go wherever they can to get medicine, food, maybe a fix, and a place to sleep.

That doesn't mean that we treat the chronically homeless as non-people, but it does mean that they will go where the services are, and if that is four blocks south, and in two years, four blocks south again, what is the difference?

regroup | September 14, 2005 2:13 AM

I'm from and I live in Columbus, OH, a city with an extensive history of gentrification downtown and in the near-downtown neighborhoods (Short North, Victorian Village, German Village, etc.) Columbus, unlike nearly every major city in the midwest, has had an INCREASE in population and an INCREASE in funding to the city because of this influx of nearly 50,000 middle and upper class residents to the downtown area over the last 20 years. This benefits EVERYONE in many ways, if you own a home in a gentrifying area, your property value increases, if you are poor, or dependent on social services, the increase in property values benefits you through its translation into increased $s for social services (city budgets are usually assigned as a percentage, so if the pie is larger and a program's percentage stays the same, the net gain increases still). And above all, gentrification is an opportunity for everyday citizens to make a little extra money through light rehab of homes in the area. I'm a grad student, I don't have alot of money, but I was still able to recently buy, rehab, and sell a home in the near downtown area for a 5 digit profit. Thats my tuition for the next two years.

Ben | October 17, 2006 3:23 PM

I should add though that most of the positives of gentrification are negated when imminent domain is used (e.g. the Poletown GM plant in detroit or the Jeep North plant in Toledo),

Ben | October 17, 2006 3:29 PM

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