Space Making as Artistic Practice: The Relationship Between Grassroots Art Organizations and the Urban Political Economy of DevelopmentPublic Deposited
Standard narratives on the relationship between art and urban development detail art networks as complicit agents in processes of upscaling and gentrification connected to the political and economic elite. My thesis challenges the conventional narrative by investigating the relationship between grassroots art spaces, tied to local, community- based interests, and the urban political economy of development in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen. Using archival, ethnographic and interview methods, I investigate three art networks—mainstream, do-it-yourself and Latinx—to contrast the construction and role of grassroots and mainstream art networks within the context of gentrification. While mainstream art networks create prime areas for top-down processes of urban change, grassroots art networks strive to represent marginal group identities, interests and reframe dynamics of power. By allying with longtime residents, community organizations and other art spaces, grassroots art organizations form an urban social movement that is aimed towards redefining the goals and function of urban space. My findings indicate that heterogeneous art networks interact with the urban political economy differently and grassroots art networks serve as legitimate forces influencing urbanism in opposition to top-down development.
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