Community art is increasingly coming under scrutiny by urban leaders. Art contributes to vibrant communities, which often promotes economic vitality and liveability. Art is also a vehicle to express political and cultural beliefs. However, neighbourhoods with large artist populations often change as lower income residents gradually give way to elites attracted to urban beautification. How do artists respond to this contradiction? Do they agree that they are the “colonial arm of the conventional middle class” (Ley 2003)? I examine organizations and artists active on Commercial Drive, Vancouver to look at artists as both gentrifiers and social advocates. Through interviews and participant observation, I identify a framing discourse of artists trying to live a lifestyle that is critically aware, socially responsible and joyful. I argue that although artists promote change, they do not feel responsible for gentrification. Instead, they often resist gentrification and blame elites for negative community development.
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