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Public forum seeks cohesive gentrification strategy Public forum united groups working to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification

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Photo by Kyle West

In attending events on gentrification, Angela Orasch realized that the conversations on this issue were happening in several discrete places. The McMaster University political science PhD candidate decided to plan an event to bring the different groups together in hopes of creating a network to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification.

The result was the Gathering on Art, Gentrification and Economic Development, funded by The Socrates Project and McMaster University’s Office of Community Engagement. The free public forum, open to all interested individuals, took place from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10 at The Spice Factory.

On Nov. 8, a door by donation kick-off party occurred at This Ain’t Hollywood, featuring performances by Lal, Lee Reed and Cheko Salaam. All proceeds went to the Tenant Turn-Up fundraising tour, a mini-tour connecting the housing struggles of Stoney Creek Towers in Hamilton, Parkdale in Toronto and Herongate in Ottawa.

The two-day forum consisted of a mixture of performances, panels and workshops, allowing individuals to both speak to their personal experiences and share strategies to work against the pitfalls of gentrification.

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#GAGED: Gathering on art, gentrification, and economic development

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We wanted to have varied programming… so [people] could learn differently through different means and be engaged in the process…. I think it was just a way to avoid the standard almost academic style of conference… it just didn’t feel right for the collaborative spirit of what we wanted GAGED to be,” Orasch explained.

The programming was designed to bring multiple perspectives into the same space so individuals could ask questions to and learn from one another. There were contributions by frontline workers, individuals discussing LGBTQ2S+ concerns regarding gentrification, the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, COBRA and the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network, among others.

The participants discussed a wide range of topics, such as the role of art in the economic development of Hamilton, what gentrification means for Hamilton’s Indigenous community, the role of McMaster University in the gentrification process, the service industry and gentrification and the perspective of new Hamiltonians.

I think ideally if we can build bridges and capacity between groups to start challenging some of the negative stuff that’s happening… that would be a great takeaway. [By] connecting and networking with various groups… there might be some room for… mutual interest and mutual goals,” Orasch said.

The goal of GAGED was to produce a report of actionable items and best practices models that will be made available to the public and distributed to City Hall, McMaster University, arts organizations and community groups.

However, this forum is only the first step in what Orasch would like to do about tackling gentrification. As with any multi-faceted and unfolding issue, it is impossible for the negative effects of gentrification to be alleviated overnight.

Orasch would like to see GAGED continue into the future, becoming a hub to connect different affected individuals and groups. She would like to see a team associated with GAGED that can continue organizing events, lobbying and creating publications and policy briefs to tackle this ongoing issue in a sustained way. Looking further into the future, Orasch would like to see the work of GAGED extend to other cities.

I guess one thing is that it’s not just gentrification… but it’s a broader economic system that’s unfair, inherently unfair, and gentrification is just… one way in which the economic system unfolds in cities. But maybe because it’s a cohesive concept it’s a good one to latch on to it and create an activism around,” Orasch said.

GAGED could become a model for other cities seeking to confront gentrification. It could also evolve into an inter-municipal forum, uniting the strategies, ideas and expertise of groups affected by gentrification in different cities. GAGED is part of the first step in creating an increasingly cohesive strategy.

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