Akimblog halifaxExciting news, readers!

A silkscreen print I made in the summer of 2011, as part of the North End Print Series is now featured as the banner for Akimblog Halifax’s Facebook pageAkimbo is Canada’s online source for visual art information, and has outposts in all major Canadian cities.

The print depicts four houses on Agricola Street just south of Willow Street, often referred to as the “4 sisters”. The houses are quaint, cozy and identical, but brightly painted in four different colours. They are a local landmark, and immediately recognizable.

Recently, the northernmost house (depicted as grey in the print) was painted purple, and renovated along with the other three houses. This is part of the recent intensification of gentrification in Halifax’s traditionally working class North End. The tenants of the 4 sisters were kicked out, and rents have been raised. This is part of a broader trend of pressure from capital causing the displacement of the neighbourhood’s residents, and the proliferation of “taste-culture” type businesses, that are not accessible to all residents.

As a white, young, creative-type from a relatively wealthy background, my presence in traditionally working class neighbourhoods with low rents means that it’s likely that I am an agent of gentrification. But these are the neighbourhoods I want to be living in – they are interesting, “authentic”, and village like. Can I do this without displacing the people that live in these interesting places?

As difficult as it may seem, I am not helpless in this fight. As much as you hear it around these days: gentrification is not natural, nor inevitable. As a potential agent of gentrification, it is your responsibility to be the ambassador of the current residents of the neighbourhood – the people who didn’t choose to live there, but can afford it and have built a nice life for themselves – and oppose any actions that will aid corporate condo-development. This means not accepting rent increases, and supporting tenants rights.

It is ambitious, but together, we can collectively put pressure against the pressure of capital and development. We can live side by side, and integrate without pushing out.

Initiatives like the “Shift Shop” highlighted on the Pop-Up City are good examples of proactive staving off of the forces of gentrification. The new young creatives in newly-gentrifying Noord Amsterdam have used their free time to create a pop-up style shop, not just for the new young creatives, but for the newly-immigrated and ethnically marked residents of the neighbourhood. BS? Maybe, I’ll let you know if I encounter it while I’m working in Noord, but in any case it’s a start…

Read the excellent zine “We Will not Go Quietly Into  the Night: Gentrification in Halifax’s North End” for more information about how to be a responsible non-agent of gentrification, specifically in the case of Halifax.