LETTER IN SUPPORT OF BOYLE HEIGHTS ALLIANCE AGAINST ARTWASHING AND DISPLACEMENT (BHAAAD)
Queens Is Not For Sale is a grassroots coalition that fights to protect Queens from the forced displacement of poor and working class people from their neighborhoods caused by actors who place profit over people. We do this by building a strong movement of resistance and people power throughout Queens.
Throughout New York, we have observed how manufacturers of art and culture are often the harbingers of displacement. City planners, politicians, and artists entrenched in the “art world” describe “neighborhood change” as an inevitable process. The reality is that “changing neighborhoods” is a term for the violent removal of lower-income residents. Without a doubt, “hip” art galleries grease the wheels of this process. In New York, this has taken place too many times throughout Bushwick, South Williamsburg, Chelsea and now the Bronx. Our city is being rebranded, repackaged, and sold under the guise of city politicians and slumlord led rezonings. The South Bronx and Harlem were recently declared the “Piano District” and “NoHa” respectively. Historic communities of color are being told their memory and existence does not matter unless it serves the purposes of speculative development. Our experiences, from Queens to Boyle Heights, are connected and we will not idly put up with artists as gentrifiers.
Some of us, as artists ourselves, stand against any artist who aims to build their career at the expense of depriving poor, long time residents of color of the right to housing and community. As working class artists and artists of color, we understand the struggle to have our voices heard and our art seen, as we are already left with limited work options when we refuse to be accomplices to the displacement of our communities. We also understand that the struggle to make a dignified living through our art does not give anyone the right to collude with real state developers, or institutions cozied up to agents of gentrification. Artists of color and working class artists are routinely blacklisted in the already small “art world” when they choose to call out gentrifiers instead of colluding with them, for there are tangible, direct links between developers and manufactures of art and culture. From NY to LA and beyond, the story is getting old: developers use artists and their cultural product as a Trojan horse to enter our communities and eventually displace us. Artists with direct complicity in speculative development empower gentrifiers and effectively become artwashing tools to accelerate displacement in the communities where they live and work.
While these situations are often labeled as “debatable” and “controversial,” we believe that individuals in our multiple communities can see past the deception. Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement (BHAAAD) and Queens Is Not For Sale (QN4S) are not opposed to culture and art. We are opposed to colonization, appropriation and displacement through art. Artists should not be forced to be shills for the real estate industry. Art should not deprive others of the right to housing and community.
QN4S celebrates the victory of BHAAAD and Defend Boyle Heights (DBH) in LA over the shutting down of PSSST gallery. We recognize, celebrate, and see what can be achieved with people power. Gentrification is not inevitable–it can be fought in various fronts and reversed. We stand in solidarity with BHAAAD and DBH in the fight for the survival of their communities.
We also want to be vocal about our support of working class artists in NYC who use various means to oppose and reverse the gentrification and displacement of their communities, as well as fight against inequity in arts and culture. We are aware that the exploitation of artists and other low-wage workers within cultural institutions is intrinsically tied to our current housing crisis and our displacement, and that NYC’s cultural funding is riddled with unacceptable compromises to inequitable development policies. In following the example set by BHAAAD in LA and our fellow artists in NYC, we will support each other in all fronts.
Queens Is Not For Sale