Artists and Gentrification in Specific Urban Contexts. A Case Study from Williamsburg, New York

By Oddrun Sæter, Venke Aure and Kristin Bergaust.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article present a case study of artists’ role in urban development processes. The focus is upon an evacuation process from a factory building where about 250 artists lived and worked, and how they managed to get back into the building some months later. We put this event into the context of social and urban development processes in Williamsburg, New York. We know well how artists often are looked upon as “pioneers” in gentrification processes, but we know less about how artists are “thrown” into different positions: as victims, as creative resources in cultural strategies, innovation, and so on. There is a need for an analysis on artists’ possible role as “brakes” in gentrification processes, in the meaning of not having the means for physical upgrading the residential and industrial sites. Most often artists let buildings and facilities keep the state just necessary for living and working. This also means that non- affluent people can stay in the neighborhood, because living costs in the area are kept to an acceptable level. In this case, we find that artists and a local community in Williamsburg together may represent a brake for gentrification. As research methods we use personal interviewing of artists and representatives of community organizations, document analysis, and visual documentation of the urban landscapes in question (photo, video). This article, which is is the first publication from this study, will be followed by a deeper analysis and dissemination later on.

Keywords: Gentrification, Artists, Loft Living, Urban Development

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.67-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.405MB).

Prof. Oddrun Sæter

Professor, Urban Research Program, Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, Norway

Professor Oddrun Sæter is educated as a sociologist and a visual artist, and has for many years conducted research and published books, articles and documentaries on urban issues. Her topics are such as senses of place, gentrification processes, and studies of public art and visual culture. At present she is research leader of the Urban Research Program at Oslo University College.

Venke Aure

Associate Professor, Department of Art, Design and Drama, Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, Norway

Associate professor Venke Aure is an educator in science and research methods in the field of art and aesthetics. Her research focuses upon art dissemination and visual culture. She is especially interested in the art institutions` role in relation to different pedagogical regimes and how the field of art is connected to broader social processes. She has a PhD in didactics with focus on dissemination of art to children and young students. She is recently working with development of art didactics.

Kristin Bergaust

Professor, Department of Art, Design and Drama, Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, Norway

Professor Kristin Bergaust is educated as a visual artist in Oslo, Norway, mainly working with digital media such as video and sound. She has been engaged in international media art networks since the 1990ies and art education since 2001. Among fields of interest, are transcultural processes and sustainable urban development. She is interested in interdisciplinary collaborations and combines visual expressions with research oriented projects, as well as an extensive artistic practice.

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