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Gentrifiers or community anchors: are art museums good for urban neighborhood residents?
October 9, 2015 @ 12:00 pm
Justin Meyer (PhD candidate, Urban Planning)
My dissertation research examines how urban art museums impact their adjacent neighborhoods to understand when they contribute to gentrification (and the subsequent isolation or displacement of ethnic minorities and poorer households) and when they might help ‘anchor’ or even build diverse communities. Methodologically, I use qualitative methods (interviews and participant observation) in a critical case study of the Portland Art Museum in Oregon to identify how and why the museum has benefitted its diverse surrounding neighborhood, as well as how and why the museum has been complicit in gentrifying the neighborhood and creating exclusive space. I also employ a broader, longitudinal analysis of socio-economic change between 1970 and 2010 in 158 neighborhoods adjacent to 60 art museums located across the country. This analysis gives me a more generalized view on whether art museums have anchored neighborhood diversity and population over the past several decades or whether their presence has corresponded with neighborhoods becoming more expensive and less diverse.
The results of my qualitative research suggest that the health of the regional economy, thephilosophical dispositions of a museum’s staff linked with an autonomy to pursue their own projects, and the availability of funding dedicated to specific museum operations are the most important factors in whether or not an art museum benefits its diverse surrounding neighborhood. Results from my longitudinal, socio-economic analysis of selected art museum neighborhoods suggest that art museum neighborhoods have been less likely than similarly located neighborhoods to experience the displacement of nonwhite populations, more likely to experience a large increase in wealth, and recently, more likely to experience an increase in population, especially in regions where population is in general decline. These results together suggest that art museums are valuable components to stabilizing neighborhood diversity and population, attracting human capital, and under the right conditions, providing accessible, valuable amenities for diverse neighborhood residents.