The poignant queer art of gentrification

The piece I wrote for Belt Magazine about the loss of my favorite gay bar has now been used by two artists to explore gentrification in Cleveland’s Hingetown neighborhood.

Danny Volk interviewed me for his piece called Cruising, which used smartphones’ geolocating technology to sonically take listeners back to earlier versions of the neighborhood. It’s poignant to use the technology blamed for the closure of gay bars to help remember gay bars that only recently closed.

A.K. Burns made a large sculpture, The Dispossessed, for the Front International to represent the fences keeping onlookers out of the new condo construction sites where a gay bathhouse and other cruisy sites recently stood. Poignantly, it’s one of the few pieces that responds to local, Cleveland concerns. Apparently the Triennial wanted a different piece and so provided only enough money to create The Dispossessed, with little left over for the artist who made it. This means that a piece directly inspired by the neighborhood in which it is installed didn’t quite fit into a new art event whose theme is An American City.

The journalists who covered the Burns piece have been all over the 2015 Vanity Fair piece in which Fred Bidwell, creator of the Front Triennial and the Transformer Station Gallery, called the neighborhood a “nowhere, toxic corner.” For this Cleveland Plain Dealer profile of the art show, Bidwell posed inside The Dispossessed:

photo by Lisa DeJong for the Plain Dealer

The them. magazine piece describes the relationship between gentrification and art as “sometimes caustic.” The Frieze piece calls it “a brave and indignant gesture by an artist in response to a financial backer.” The pieces only exist, of course, because the queers who inspired them are no longer around, but at least other queers are memorializing them. I’ll just say that’s poignant.

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