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Public Artist

Talking Artscape, murals, and moving on with BOPA's Gary Kachadourian

Frank Klein
Gary Kachadourian says he does some of his best thinking--and drawing--on the bus.
"Trash Container," one of Kachadourian's series of life-size prints he draws on paper then enlarges to mammoth scale.
A detail of "Motors Installation," a collection of doodle drawings Kachadourian has been creating since he was in junior high school.
Frank Klein

By Tim Hill | Posted 8/12/2009

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CP: Speaking of arts in public places, Station North is an area the city is hoping will take off. What is your opinion of the use of artists as shock troops for gentrification?

GK: (laughs) I don't think it really works that well anywhere but New York. My view of artists doing stuff in communities like that is the utopian approach, which is that you can actually build a speculation-free environment where the poor and the middle-class and the artists can all actually live in the same place. It's possible, analytically, but it's not really gonna happen in America. It's possible. You can visualize it. It won't happen, but you can visualize.

The other half of that . . . I don't really know that it happens, per se, anyway. There is a reality that when artists move into a community, they tend to move to communities that are very cheap and are often perceived as being very dangerous, because they're willing to put up with the dangerous to get the cheap. And then what happens is that they tend to stabilize the neighborhood, make it often less dangerous than it was before they got there, because they tend to call the police or whatever more often. And then other people start to say, "Hey, we can move there because it's cool."

Has it happened in Baltimore? There aren't really that many artist-gentrification scenarios that work here. The big gentrification areas are like South Baltimore and Fells Point and Highlandtown that are not really artist-shock-troop areas. Station North took a big spike in, like, people buying abandoned houses for too much money because of the art-coolness part that was happening, but now it's kind of stabilized. Sowebo was kind of the same thing. There was a spike, but it didn't really gentrify.

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