Gentrification is Colonialism: Anti-Institutions & Indigenous Liberation

Forge Project, a new Native-led arts and decolonial education initiative based in Ancram, is hosting a three-part series of dialogues and intimate conversation sessions, “Gentrification is Colonialism,” between local organizers, community members, and Indigenous activists whose work fights against gentrification, the housing crisis, “sick” architecture, and the ways in which artists and cultural spaces are complicit in their construction.

Forge Project, una nueva iniciativa de arte y educación decolonial liderada por indígenas y ubicada en Ancram, está organizando una serie de diálogos y sesiones de conversación íntimas en tres partes, "La Gentrificación es Colonialismo", entre organizadores locales, miembros de la comunidad y activistas indígenas que luchan contra la gentrificación, la crisis de la vivienda, la arquitectura "enferma" y las maneras en que los artistas y los espacios culturales son cómplices en su construcción.

Moderator: Jamie Sanin, Celebrate845
Panelists: Tania Willard, 2022 Forge Project Fellow and Bush Gallery co-founder
Audra Simpson, Anthropologist, Columbia University

The first panel in the Gentrification is Colonialism series, hosted at Forge Project, looks to Indigenous models of refusal, resistance, and organizing both on-reserve and in urban centers as a means to critically examine the relationships between art and gentrification and gentrification and colonialism.

BUSH Gallery, for example, "is a space for dialogue, experimental practice, and community-engaged work that contributes to an understanding of how gallery systems and art mediums might be transfigured, translated and transformed by Indigenous knowledges, traditions, aesthetics, performance, and land-use systems."

Audra Simpson, in her book Mohawk Interruptus, posits a politics of refusal, which stands in contrast to politics of cultural recognition. For her this offers a reordering of sovereign political order. Forge Project hopes to be a conduit for conversations around historical displacement and hold itself accountable for the ways in which its presence in the Mahhicannituck (Hudson River) Valley affects the current rise in economic and physical displacement while fostering a cultural “re-placement” of indigenous people to our region.

About the Series
The series expands from the central tenet that gentrification is colonialism, and that one of the ways we can understand how gentrification operates as well as means to counter its effects is by tracing its historical roots in the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people, particularly in the Mahhicannituck (Hudson River) Valley.

Each panel will be moderated by a local artist or organizer, and feature local activists known for their work on the topic in dialogue with an Indigenous activist, architect, artist, or scholar in Forge Project’s community who is taking a new approach to this age-old colonial issue. The public panel will be followed by a debriefing conversation among panelists and community members, where participants can ask more specific questions and discuss the issues raised during these conversations in greater depth.

About Jamie Sanin
Jamie Sanin (she/they) is an artist, educator, and organizer living and raised in this region. She holds a B.S. in Visual Arts Education and her interest in teaching sprouted from her own experience with the arts; in addition to visual art, Jamie also studied dance, music, and theatre from a young age. Each experience provided them not only with a breadth of cultural knowledge but also the opportunity to consider the importance of community care via accessible arts, for which they are an advocate. Jamie's personal, professional, and creative work is centered around liberation, collaboration, and joy.

About Tania Willard
Tania Willard, a mixed Secwépemc and settler artist, is an Assistant Professor at UBCO in Syilx territories and her current research intersects with land-based art practices.

Situating relational land practice through art as an Indigenous resurgent act, collaborative projects like BUSH gallery and supporting language revitalization in Secwepemc communities are intertwined concepts that activate connection to land, culture and family in Willard’s practice.

About Audra Simpson
Audra Simpson is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She researches and writes about Indigenous and settler society, politics, and history.

Simpson is the author of “Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States” (Duke University Press, 2014), winner of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies Prize, among other accolades. Next year Simpson will be a Distinguished Visiting Professor at University of Chicago’s new Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity.

In 2020 Simpson won the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching, the second anthropologist in the 50-year history of the award to do so. Simpson is a Kahnawà:ke Mohawk.

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