Art, Gentrification, And A Poem For Barbara Koostra

by Travis Mateer

Why would activists in LA oppose an art gallery? One word: gentrification.

You see, the residents of Boyle Heights understand that art galleries are harbingers of gentrification and they don’t want it in their neighborhood:

Boyle Heights is a predominantly working class Hispanic neighborhood situated east of L.A.’s Arts District. Residents fear that the influx of gallery spaces in their neighborhood will lead to their displacement and ultimate cultural erasure. Members of the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement (BHAAAD) are demanding that art galleries in Boyle Heights relocate to other, more affluent areas of the city. It’s not that Boyle Heights residents just don’t like art; rather their efforts proactively address the historically damaging effects that art spaces can have on a community’s deep-rooted residents. When developers see a neighborhood flourishing with art galleries and bougie cafes, they see a potential for exorbitant profit. Maga Miranda, a protestor affiliated with BHAAAD, told L.A. Weekly that “we’re not against art or culture… the Eastside has been an incredibly active place when it comes to art and culture. But the art galleries are part of a broader effort by planners and politicians and developers who want to artwash gentrification.” 

The idea of art and displacement has rushed to the forefront of my brain after Sunday’s post about a former art museum director literally displacing a city council candidate from the ward he’s running in.

To document this anecdotal story of a denizen of Missoula’s art scene displacing a young political candidate, I have written a poem that will make me EVEN MORE unpublishable than I already am. Enjoy!

what is art to towns on zoom?
what's it's role in fueling boom?
where can artists afford to live?
how much soul to money give?

Barbara Koostra is a poem
pulling back a house on loan
she's good at making collections grow
and finding walls on which to show

what is art to Stockman's bank?
who should hubby banker thank?
I asked around, but artists know
art world teeth rip vicious holes

here's a painting of a fish
here's a landscape, make a wish
cause artists are the worker bees
when patrons keep us on our knees

if that offends, go fuck a duck
or Monte Dolack if you're in luck
and if you want to find a stage
consult the mighty Checota sage

this is art in Zoom Town now
well-sourced imitation cows
just as sacred, but louder moos
and just as scared of what is true

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to Art, Gentrification, And A Poem For Barbara Koostra

  1. Excellent. Both the article and the poem. New word for my lexicon: “artwash”

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