A friend of mine (from Boston, graduated from elite liberal arts college) is currently working in Detroit at a tech start up through Venture For America. He recently wrote an article in the huffpo titled something like "moving where it matters" in which he argues for ditching typical cities like NYC and San Francisco for "abandoned shitholes" like Detroit where ones impact can truly be felt. He advocates for gentrification, saying it is absolutely necessary.
I however disagree with this, for precisely many of the themes your moving exhibtion brings up...namely the idea that these cities are empty, and that capitalist solutions are the only answers. Though at the same time, cities like Braddock or Detroit (or Cleveland, where I am from) do badly need new infrastructure, fresh and sustainable economies, and a solution to broken down worn down lots, buildings, and piled up waste.
What sorts of remedies, or actions do you feel can be taken that are both socially responsible, community-based, environmentally sound? What role can art play in rejuvenating both the physical and emotional landscapes of these cities?
Thank you for such a beautiful show and for having the courage to display vulnerability.
Dear Katherine, Thank you so much for asking a question I am constantly thinking about. It is a tough question that has yet to be answered by any of the places you mention. The Richard Florida Creative Class theory is deeply troubling and flawed.
We live in a society that constantly erases and ignores the poor and disenfranchised.
I am interested in geographer and social theorist David Harvey's suggestion that the urban realities of American cities are of widespread polarization, homelessness, fragmentation and marginalization. There is a prejudice and superiority complex with this new migration of "urban pioneers" creating their own communities and place by oppressing the poor, the sick and the elderly.
Selfishness has a destructive path. What good is it if mankind "revitalizes" Detroit, Cleveland or Braddock if there is no equality, no social reform or no social justice for the poor? I dream that one day I'll see the rebuilding of communities where long-time residents and marginalized citizens are acknowledged and included in reshaping their own homes and communities. I imagine a place where students use their education, skills, networks and culture-capital to uplift men and women that have been displaced to a second-class system of servitude instead of taking advantage and abusing them. What ever happened to teaching disenfranchised people how to sustain and build their own economy and community?
If you want to "rebuild" or "revitalize" our rust-belt cities you must start with the quality of all men and women's lives. How about asking the people who have been the most affected and devastated by the economic downturn, what they want, how they envision the neighborhood around them? Until this society deals with race relations and color-blindness the class iniquity we face will never end.