Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Are you an Affordable Artist?

Yeah, yeah, only permanent bellyachers like me would find something not to like in this official HUD writeup captioned "Affordable Artist Housing in Downtown Elgin, Illinois."

Per the article it would seem that the amenities of metropolitan Elgin include "the second-largest orchestra in the state" but "downtown Elgin has not always been the premier arts and entertainment destination it is today..." That is, the cultural cred and property values of thrilling downtown Elgin could both use a little plumping up.

In aid of same, a lucky subsidized developer has produced 55 live/work units "serving low-income artists who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income."

But that's perfectly nice, isn't it? Some nice dedicated creative types will have nicer, cheaper places to live than otherwise, in a community where happy cross-pollinations might ensue. Isn't that great? I'm sure it is in many ways.

However, what's bugging me is this, or rather, these: assumptions that "artists" are definable creatures who will benefit from transplantation (segregation?) into a colony of creatures who, being also artists, must be like themselves. Artists as colonists. Artists explicitly deployed as cannon-fodder in what sounds like a transitional neighborhood. Artists licensed as bona fide genyu-wine artists, accept no substitute. (Which implies there's a contrasting, equally definable social category of People Who Are Not Artists.) Artists who will ipso facto raise the tone of the neighborhood.

I mean, when powers that be disapprove of artists it's bad enough, but when they approve of artists for the purpose of domesticating them for deployment in an urban recolonization scheme, that's really depressing.

I can't find a copy of Mike Newirth's "Zoned Bohemian" article in the old Baffler but think it covered some of this trouble. This is the best link I can find describing it. Go dig it up if you can.

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