Reflecting on the origins of this project, and studying recent evaluations of the new practice of creative placemaking, may help shed light on many of the concerns and questions that have been raised.
|East 9th Street|
But just two years after co-authoring the NEA’s paper, Markusen wrote of her unease about how ArtPlace was measuring creative placemaking success. She writes “ ArtPlace is developing “measures of value, which capture changes in rental and ownership values…” This reads like an invitation to gentrification, and contrary to the NEA’s aspirations for creative placemaking to support social cohesion and community attachment.”
This is not a surprise. Gadwa Nicodemus and Markusen alerted us to the potential of creative placemaking to spur gentrification in their original NEA paper when they wrote, “Arts-initiated revitalization can set off gentrification pressures that displace current residents and small businesses, including non-profit arts organizations.”
And they are not alone in their concern.
In his 2013 essay, “Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-Belonging,” Roberto Bedoya, Executive Director of the Tucson Pima County Arts Council, writes, “The blind love of Creative Placemaking that is tied to the allure of speculation culture and its economic thinking of “build it and they will come” is suffocating and unethical, and supports a politics of dis-belonging employed to manufacture a “place.”
These comments by respected arts leaders are clearly reflected in the dialogue that has emerged around the proposed East 9th Street project. Although East Lawrence was represented on the Cultural District Task Force, which made general recommendations for the Cultural District, the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association (ELNA) was not consulted in the development of the actual ArtPlace and Our Town grants related to East 9th Street. Concerns about this lack of agency in the process, led ELNA to initiate forums for discussion around the project’s implications, including facilitated public meetings and a three-hour “Imagine East 9th Street” event.
|Imagine East 9th Street event, November 16, 2014|
In her 2014 article, “The Gentrification of Our Livelihoods: Everything must go,” about an ArtPlace funded project in San Francisco, writer Megan Wilson speaks directly to this need for equity. She writes, “To achieve these ends, we must work to put far more pressure on our city officials and hold them accountable to provide the best services, opportunities, and amenities for residents, while ensuring that existing communities are protected and supported through high functioning planning, permitting, and legislation with strong and clear avenues for oversight and accountability by their constituencies.”
This is what many East Lawrence residents have been advocating for – genuine accountability and an acknowledgment of the value that their unique experience and knowledge can bring to the process. Unfortunately, these basic measures have yet to be met while new concerns have arisen, as expressed in a letter (below) sent to Lawrence City Commissioners and signed by more than 140 residents.
June 21, 2015
To Mayor Farmer and Lawrence City Commissioners,
We deeply appreciate the careful consideration you and city staff have given the East Ninth project process and trust that you will continue to give it the serious and thoughtful regard it deserves. The learning curve has been steep for this ambitious and first of its kind endeavor for our community.
In an effort to move toward the goals of a healthy, just, equitable and sustainable East Ninth Street project, we, the one hundred forty (140) individuals undersigned, have carefully reviewed the draft Work Plan submitted by el dorado inc to the City Commission and propose the modifications outlined below be included in the document before the plan is accepted.
1) Statement of Values
Respect and understanding of the place and people where this project is proposed are critical to its acceptance and sustainability. The Work Plan should be revised to acknowledge that the East Lawrence Neighborhood already has a statement of values that applies to the majority of the area where the project is planned. Following from this, the Design Team, City and Lawrence Arts Center should strive to respect and be guided by these values in reviewing existing plans, and as it moves forward with the East Ninth project.
2) Artist Participation Model
The culture and spirit of East Lawrence are alive and well, in part because of its organic growth and thoughtful and passionate stewardship. All public art projects in recent memory that have been carried out in East Lawrence have been presented for consideration and approval to the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association before going on to the City. This includes the mural at Hobbs Park, the forthcoming Intersection Repair, the New York School mural, the Cultural District, and Better Block event. We believe that the same process should be used for all art and culture related projects outlined in the Artist Participation Model (APM) section of the Work Plan. The Work Plan should be revised to include the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association in the review and approval process (that includes Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission, Historic Resources Commission, and City Commission), for all art and culture related projects proposed in the APM.
To ensure that the character and expression of the neighborhood is guided by those who live there, we propose that at least 50% of the projects outlined in the APM be led by Lawrence artists (with at least one Lawrence artist in each of the three sections of the APM), and at least half of those led by East Lawrence artists. To make the most of the potential creative exchange that can take place during this process, we propose that all art projects outlined in the APM include paid assistant artists from Lawrence. This will be great experience and training for our local artists and will give any lead artists who are not from Lawrence essential insights into the place they are working.
3) Conservation Overlay
In order to ensure that development along East 9th Street and adjacent parts of the East Lawrence Neighborhood will evolve in a way that protects and supports the cultural and economic life of its residents and the unique character of its built environment, we propose that a Conservation Overlay be designed and implemented as a part of the East Ninth project and be in place before any work described in the Artist Participation Model begins. The physical extent and specific provisions of the overlay would be determined collaboratively with the City, project Design Team, East Lawrence Neighborhood Association and other interested citizens.
Thank you again for your continued work on this issue and specific consideration of our letter.
Jean Ann Pike
Lauretta Hendricks Backus
Martha S. Thorp
Macy C. Smith
Katheirne “KH” Harris
John P. Jervis
Janet A. Jackson
James C. Dunn
Ann Carlin Ozegovic
Marvin E. Voth
Thomas E. Peters
Sarah Archiblod Busse
Nancy V. Brune
E. F. Tolbert
Jane W. Gibson
Sven Erik Alstrom
Gregory M. Herrod
Robert W. Lepphe
Jay M. Hester
D. Byron Darby
Kellie Smith Herrod
C. D. Hall
Judith K. Burns McCrea