Ultra-Red: An Open Letter To Hyperallergic

10 June 2016

Hyperallergic Media
181 N 11th St. Suite 302
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Re: “In LA, Fear of Gentrification Greets New Nonprofit Art Space” http://hyperallergic.com/303054/in-la-fear-of-gentrification-greets-new-nonprofit-art-space/

To whom it may concern,

Listening to the Pssst Art Gallery debacle, the members of the sound art collective Ultra-red have been asking, what have we heard? We have heard a lot of support for the good intentions and radical vision of the Pssst Art Gallery. That support has been predicated upon not bothering to understand the situation from the perspective of the community that actually lives in the neighborhood. We have also heard strong reactions voiced against artists who have joined in solidarity with the community to challenge the political economy of cultural-oriented development.

Located in Boyle Heights east of downtown Los Angeles, on the east banks of the Los Angeles River, the Pssst Gallery sits a few blocks away from the Pico Gardens public housing community. The neighborhood around Pssst was the site where 900 families living in public housing were displaced to make way for precisely the kind of development signified by the encroaching “arts district.” Even before our collective formed in 1994, members of Ultra-red stood with the residents of Pico Gardens in the 1980s, then through the founding of Union de Vecinos by thirty-six public housing families in 1996, and up to today.

Walking with the residents of Pico Gardens, we have heard how the neighbors around the Pssst Gallery view this as part of a life-long fight against the destruction of working class communities of color. First the police tried to criminalize public housing residents in the ‘80s. Then the city and the non-profits tried to wipe public housing off the face of the earth in the ‘90s. Then the city tried to force public housing residents out of their homes with excessive fees in the ‘00s. Then the city tried to privatize public housing in the ‘10s. More recently, Union de Vecinos has joined with the L.A. Tenants Union to fight against promises of “affordable” housing having learned from communities across the country who have experienced the hollowness of those promises. Now Pico Gardens residents have to fight against the art-washing and pink-washing of speculative real estate in their back yards.

The row of galleries that have planted themselves in between the river and the Pico Gardens neighborhood bring with them increased property values and thus speculation, new landlords harassing rent-controlled tenants, and coerced displacement. The surrounding neighborhoods feel this gushing wave of gentrification and are fighting back building-by-building, block-by-block. They are fighting to prevent being brushed out of the picture that is their community.

The members of Ultra-red believe that through bold and militant action the residents of Pico Gardens, the Boyle Heights community, all the members of Union de Vecinos, and the L.A. Tenants Union will prevail in the struggle for justice. We walk with them. Because theirs is the priceless and collective art of resistance.

In unity and struggle,
Ultra-red Los Angeles
Elizabeth Blaney, Dont Rhine, Walt Senterfitt, and Leonardo Vilchis

U L T R A – R E D
PO Box 291578
Los Angeles, CA 90029 USA