Monday, September 22, 2008

Rules of Attraction

The migration of artists and the process of gentrification is a story well-known to advocates of attracting the Creative Class. But there is a price to be paid for this type of urban renewal: Displacement of lower-income residents. Artists are not immune to such pressures, often on the lookout for better real estate bargains and more affordable city living:

Today, I live in a Chinatown co-op and paint in a walk-in closet. I have no place to show my art in Vancouver. The lack of mid-range galleries has forced me to take my art south where I almost completely show these days. It’s hard to admit that I’m part of the brain drain into the U.S., but I went where the work was requested.

I admit I’m doing better than most, but I’m finding it very difficult to work in the tiny space that I call my studio. The more work I find, the harder it becomes to scale up my progress.

I’ve now begun to look at completely leaving the city. It’s been a tough personal decision. Many people are choosing to move away because they will never afford own a home, a studio, or a business here. It’s upsetting, because most artists can't do the work they love in the city they live in.

The "exodus" of artists from expensive Vancouver helps to explain the draw of Paducah, KY. Artists will always need new urban frontiers to gentrify and the Rust Belt is now full of such places. Already, creative nomads are packing up the wagons and heading to Detroit.

A lack of tolerance isn't pushing people out of Vancouver and open-mindedness isn't attracting artists to Paducah. Artists like to live near a bunch of other artists, ideally on the cheap. That's how I would explain the preponderance of sculptors living in Loveland, CO. But as more and more people discover the high quality of living in the Front Range, even Loveland will reach a tipping point.

Eastward ho!

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