BOYLE HEIGHTS — Artist and gallery owner Laura Owens has found herself in the cross hairs of anti-gentrification protesters who want her to get out of Boyle Heights. As part of their campaign, protesters demonstrated last week during the opening of Owens’ show at the Whitney Museum in New York, chanting “Leave our hoods and do what’s right: Give your keys to Boyle Heights!” This week, Owens responded to those protests.
The protests against Owens and her art dealer, Gavin Brown, in New York come after a year of tension in Boyle Heights between gentrification opponents and the owners and artists involved in new galleries and art spaces, primarily in former warehouse and commercial spaces in the lowlands near the L.A. River. Anti-gentrification opponents who work under names like like Defend Boyle Heights have targeted these spaces, claiming they contribute to the displacement of low-income and working class residents.
In a statement posted on the website of 356 Mission, the art space Owens runs, the artist said efforts to talk with the protesters have failed to yield any positive results. Instead, she said death threats were left in voicemail messages and demands were made to abandon her space:
“After refusing to engage in a dialogue, the protestors increased their aggressive techniques, by distributing further false information about us on anonymous social media accounts and bullying and threatening our staff and presenters, including people who are themselves part of vulnerable communities. We do things in public; we have an address; we have a phone number; we are open to criticism; and we welcome discussion. This has made us vulnerable to anonymous insults and death threats left on our voicemail …. We hoped to find common ground to work toward the issues facing our community, but all of our ideas, such as working together on community land buy backs, campaigning for specific policy changes, providing laundromat services and sponsoring workshops for kids were rejected. The protestors clearly stated instead that their only demands were that we immediately terminate our activities, dissolve 356 Mission and hand over the keys to them for unspecified purposes. They insisted that any further meeting would only be premised on our agreeing to these demands.”
But it doesn’t look like Owens, who lives in Echo Park, is shutting down her art space.
“After much inquiry, research and discussion, we have always come back to the conclusion that breaking our lease and leaving would not help solve the housing crisis or slow development, Owens said. “I have always been and remain committed to engaging in productive dialogue that results in effective actions to battle the issues facing our communities.”
Yesterday #DefendBoyleHeights and @b.h.a.a.a.d disrupted #Gentrifier #LauraOwens and #GavinBrown at the Whitney Museum in NYC. We delivered and read a letter of the women of the Pico Aliso Projects . We have one clear demand; hand over the keys to 356 Mission!!!! Shout out to the dope homie squad THAT CAME TO SUPPORT BOYLE HEIGHTS AND EACH OTHER! Chinatown Art Brigade, East Harlem Preservation Coalition, East Harlem No Se Vende, Take Back the Bronx, Defend Corona, Queens Is Not 4 Sale, ICE FREE QUEENS, Queens Neighborhoods United, Mi Casa No Es Su Casa, Decolonize This Place, SPARC, Equality for Flatbush, Peoples Power Assembly Queens, Peoples Power Assembly Manhattan, Mothers on the Move, Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine, and more. Read the letter here : http://alianzacontraartwashing.org/en/letter-to-laura-owens-from-the-women-of-pico-gardens-aliso-village/
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