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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Visualizing Narratives of Art as Gentrification in the "Artwashing" of Boyle Heights

  • Author(s): Hamidi, Emmanuel
  • et al.

In Boyle Heights, a predominantly Chicanx, working class, and renter neighborhood in Los Angeles, anti-gentrification activists have been rallying against “artwashing”—the appearance of art galleries and associated creative class consumption as a threat of gentrification. These concerns originate from the opening of several commercial art galleries in the neighborhood’s industrial outskirts adjacent to the “Arts District” in Downtown LA. The case of “artwashing” protest in Boyle Heights raises a contestation over the political and spatial possibilitiesof an art world in an existing urban neighborhood. With particular attention to these implications, this paper investigates the following critical questions: How is the relationship between art and gentrification visualized in Boyle Heights? What narrative of gentrification is represented in strategies of its resistance? This research paper will consider “artwashing” in Boyle Heights under particular social theories and geographic relations contributing to the rise of multiple forms of resistance, from neighborhood art projects capturing displacementto anti-“artwashing” organizations targeting the art galleries in the neighborhood. The investigation concludes by suggesting additional research on accounts of “artwashing” protests and urban development in the “Arts District’’ and encouraging the practice of incorporating new forms of urban development into new forms of spatial depictions and visual activism against gentrification.

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