When Teresa Magaña originally approached us to participate in Peeling off the Grey, an exhibition on gentrification she curated for the National Museum of Mexican Art, we thought this show was not going to offer the same impact we have when we come together to use our permanent markers, cardboard, and spray cans to make protest art. It was not until she expressed her vision to create an “organic installation” to “put up messages we would want people to see…in the same format we would create…during an action, protest, march or rally” that we agreed to sit down with her.
Despite being reassured that the only restriction was to abstain from using graphic imagery, we discovered that our original hesitation was valid. Without notifying Teresa, the museum removed the installation after expressing dissatisfaction with our art criticizing the role that the 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis and The Resurrection Project play in promoting development at the expense of the poor. Teresa and the museum’s curator later reached a compromise to reinstall the work with the exception of some of our original messages. Specifically, we were asked to cover up the name “Danny Solis” and to cover up The Resurrection Project’s logo that was originally modified to read “THE GENTRIFICATION PROJECT”.
Today, we made a decision to comply with the museum’s request and we modified our art by placing black bars over the “controversial” text and images. When we originally chose to participate in the show, we saw it as an opportunity to bring attention to the systems of power that gentrify our neighborhoods.
Instead of withdrawing from the show, we challenge all artists not to be complicit in the museum’s choice to censor our message. We ask that artists “co-sign” this statement against censorship and exploitation of poor people. We also ask that artists unite by critically examining the role they play in gentrification when they paint murals for developers, receive DCASE grants, and seek out only resume building or financially lucrative opportunities.
This is not the time to be silent nor divided.
Pilsen Alliance | + gallery Chicago | anonymous artists