Dreaming of a new Streetopia

48H The big question is always not just “can art make a difference,” but, as the current neoliberal practice of art-washing shows,

By Marke B. 48hills – excerpt

Groundbreaking 2012 arts festival — which fought Lee’s “art washed” gentrification plan — is revisited with new book and two events, Thu/15 and Fri/16. 

ART LOOKS How do you throw a sprawling, thought-provoking, renegade art fair to protest the gentrification of a neighborhood — just as the mayor starts pushing art fairs as the key to sugarcoat his gentrification agenda?

That’s one of the contemporary arts dilemmas the organizers of the 2012 Streetopia festival — which occupied Mid Market and Tenderloin abandoned storefronts, public spaces, and civic-minded galleries with work from almost 100 artists and activists — set out to explore.

Their creative approach? Double down on community engagement, dig deeper into San Francisco’s communitarian past, activate spaces left abandoned by rampant speculation, and challenge participating artists to harness the abstract to the concrete to address and broadcast the concerns of the local population, caught up in a seemingly uncontrollable wave of change…

A free food cafe, a geography-based project informing homeowners of the hippie commune past of their property, public interactive performances, and more were meant to counter the “art washing” that can take place when art fairs like Art Basel Miami take over a community and contribute to its displacement.

Three years later, Streetopia is back — in the form of a new book documenting the festival with full-color pics and 24 in-depth essays from Bay Area arts heavy-hitters like V Vale, Kal Spelletich, Chris Johanson, Barry McGee, Spy Emerson, and Bochay Drum that address Streetopia’s vision, execution, and legacy. A panel with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project (Thu/15) at Adobe Books and a full-on bonanza book release party (Fri/16) at Luggage Store Galley — locus of the original Streetopia — will bring this vital piece of recent history to life.

I talked to Streetopia fest co-curator and Streetopia book editor Erick Lyle about the legacy of the festival, the implications of large arts organizations like Burning Man establishing shiny new bases in the Mid Market and Tenderloin areas, the idea that arts can “clean up” these supposedly “blighted” area, and how art can actively address gentrification and change…

48H The big question is always not just “can art make a difference,” but, as the current neoliberal practice of art-washing shows, “can art make the right kind of difference.” What are some of your thoughts about the larger role of art in a a hyper-capitalist/post-civic marketplace like the current SF?…

STREETOPIA: BOOK LAUNCH PANEL WITH ANTI-EVICTION MAPPING PROJECT
Thu/15, 7PM, free. Adobe Books, SF(more)

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