Gates leads discussion on ethical redevelopment in Chicago

Urban redevelopment in cities can sometimes be a difficult topic to discuss, which is why Place Lab took the question of “What does ethical redevelopment in Chicago look like to you?” to artists, activists, scholars and community members at a public convening event, yesterday, at the Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St.

Place Lab’s work focuses on what it means to redevelop urban neighborhoods, especially in Chicago, in an ethical way, rather than by profit-driven practices. At Wednesday’s event, attendees and guest speakers spoke on their own thoughts to the answer the question.

“I do not believe that ethical redevelopment can be a feel good conversation,” said Charlene Carruthers, the national director of the Black Youth Project 100.

Theaster Gates, the director of Place Lab, who echoed Carruthers’ thought, said, “It is complicated, messy work in the redevelopment of our cities in a way that could provide lots of different tactics and strategies and roads to what this work is,” he said.

Attendees had the chance to write out their own thoughts about the topic and post it on a blank white board that quickly filled up with experiences, ideas and issues.

One post read, “These projects often feel like (archeological) sites where the broken (Black) pieces of community are tinkered with, and studied, like artifacts. I want development that leads to economic empowerment and self determination.”

Another post said that a problem of redevelopment is that planners of the developments are not engaged in or from the community in which they are working on.

Guest speakers spoke on the role of different groups of people or areas of thought to collaborate on the ethical redevelopment conversation.

“We need to acknowledge those in communities who have been marginalized,” said Cathy Cohen, political science professor at the University of Chicago (U. of C.). “The changing of policy is not enough…there are not enough hipster coffee shops to make this go away.”

Urban redevelopment can’t be talked about without bringing up gentrification, as Mabel Wilson, a professor at Columbia College, said, “Like people, places too have a history and we must always bear in mind that societies form in order to put particular people in particular places.”

But there are some ways to actually look at a neighborhood and provide it with the redevelopment it needs, while keeping in mind the residents who live there.

Lisa Lee, the director of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that by looking at it from an artist’s perspective, creative thinking could happen in the process.

“It can happen by bridging the gaps through a shared practice of everyday life,” Lee said, adding that all people of a community should think of themselves as “social sculptors” to the bigger picture.

Carruthers said working together, from all tiers of people in the redevelopment process, is what will make it ethical.

“Constellations over all ecosystems of the various ‘We’s’ requires a collective ‘We,’” she said.

These types of conversations will continue as Place Lab hosts more events like these in hopes that communities and those who live in them will become more involved.

“Our hope is that the things that are happening are a kind of demonstration act of the work that we’re all doing and that maybe we can all do more,” Gates said.


[Via: Hyde Park Herald]

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