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Take A Walk Wth Me East LA by Alexandra Rowe

takeawalkwithmeeastla.com is an interactive web piece that explores my morning walk in Downtown Los Angeles. I collected photographs of my walk in the Financial District, which begins at the 7th Street Metro Station and moves to the Il Caffe coffee shop in the historic Eastern Columbia building. The photographs were collected over a week-long period and then converted into modern, vector-style images. The piece displays an outlined path that I took on a map which is placed as the last image the viewer sees on each day. The images are mostly grey with hints of pink, red, and blue.  

The conceptualization of the piece began through my interest in real estate and gentrification. While I wanted to focus on gentrification as a major theme, specifically within Downtown Los Angeles, I found myself struggling with a way to represent gentrification. Through this process, I felt there was this “grey area,” as indicated in her color choices for the piece, in which believes there can be pros to gentrification but also harmful effects. The website was created using programming knowledge and experimentation with photography, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop. The modernist aesthetic of the piece with an emphasis on lines and simple colors and patterns is similar to styles often used in gentrified buildings and shops.  

Through my research on gentrification, I was largely inspired by street art and opposition pieces. One group that inspired the piece was by art collective the NYC Light Brigade in Bushwick, New York. The group posted signs using strung Christmas lights over the holidays which read, “Gentrification is the New Colonialism,” “Not for Sale,” “No me mudo” (“I’m not moving”), and “3 Generation Household”. Another anti-gentrification artist that inspired the work is Seattle-based artist John CriscitelloCriscitello uses the medium of graffiti to spread messages opposing gentrification in areas experiencing gentrification in Seattle. He challenges ideas of gentrification by speaking to or getting the attention of people who are flocking to newly gentrified areas in his art. The photographs I took include pieces of street art in order to represent this influence. In addition, consumerism was a topic I was deeply interested in its connection to gentrification.  

Consumerism and new opportunities for purchasing and products makes gentrification appealing to those who move into new areas. I display shops and other aspects of this consumerism within the piece. I was specifically interested in artists Mendi and Keith Obadike’s perspective on consumerism in conjunction with race. Their piece “Blackness for Sale,” was a four-day eBay auction selling “blackness” in order to display issues of race, class, and identity. These issues are also all present in the process and complexities of gentrification. The documentary, The Century of Self, also influenced the piece as it discussed consumerism in America as part of the American psyche. This tells the story of Americans always wanting more and how desires were manipulated to become needs.  

The purpose of my piece is not to provide an answer to questions regarding gentrification but to complicate it as something that can be appealing to consumers but also harmful to culture and the people who have lived in an area that is now being taken over. The piece is therefore not meant to take a stance on gentrification but have the viewer ponder their role in gentrification and possibly complicate their perspective.