Building an Arts Community—Not ArtWashing the Community

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ArtWashing is the use of artists to inflate property values by doing what artists do best—transform spaces. It’s a common practice in urban redevelopment.

Artists are economic first responders. We usually come in when rents are low and crime is high. After we settle in, things tend to improve. Then the crime drops and businesses sprout. About this time, rents inflate. The final stage occurs when local residents and artist are forced out. It’s just how it goes.

ArtWashing is a quicker version where outside artists are brought in by developers or city councils to essentially flip a neighborhood. Often times, this happens without the knowledge of artists involved.

In general, revitalization is good. But artists should beware of this larger game where urban populations are displaced as a result of the economic factors resulting from artistic endeavors.

As we build our creative community in Augusta, we plan for inclusion and diversity by involving the community from the start: local artists, art organizations, schools and residents. We can’t involve everyone in every project. But the vision will be one of collaboration and inclusion. We seek broad-based cultural enrichment. We already have great support for this from the Greater Augusta Arts Council, Westobou and others.

To help things along, the Department of Art is bringing Ed Woodham to Augusta. Ed’s an internationally recognized artist and educator dedicated to public art forms. He’s also the Founder and Director of Art in Odd Places. Plus, he’s an ardent supporter of local artists. Recently, even Ed was involved in a scheme to ArtWash Macon, GA. Read about his adventures in Macon.

On September 6th at 5pm, Ed will speak on public art in Washington Hall at Augusta University. Click here for the event. The goal for this is to have a positive discussion to begin planning for large projects – not to badmouth other cities. We’ll update the event soon to include the room number. Artists, art organizations and members of the community are invited to come listen and ask questions. Those interested in being part of the artistic community are invited.

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