The belief that artists are too independent or focused on their career to self-organize needs to die. Artists have the capacity to be both generous and great.
Take, for example, the affordable housing movement, and the artists dispelling the traditional artist-as-gentrifier-enabler role. Theaster Gates transformed vacant and abandoned buildings in his neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side by establishing a foundation, and then partnering with the city and developers to rehab a public housing complex into mixed-income housing. In Houston, Rick Lowe’s Project Row Houses covers six blocks in the Third Ward, providing affordable housing for low-income tenants. Mark Bradford’s Art + Practice not only brings contemporary art programming to Los Angeles’s Leimert Park, but also provides social services for youth in the city’s foster care system. Artists have the potential to readdress urban displacement and ensure affordable space still exists for art by pulling up their sleeves and playing a bigger entrepreneurial role in real estate development.