Fighting Capitalism: An Artist's Call to Action

By Danielle Lauretano for Boston Compass (#125)

July 9, 2020


In early May, me and other tenants realized that our artist studio building, Joy St. Studios, was being sold without notifying any of the artists. We were disturbed by this lack of transparency, and the past couple of months we have been organizing and advocating for our right to exist here in Somerville. At this point, the fate of the building is up in the air, and we fear that we may lose our spaces like so many others have in the city. Obviously much bigger issues are happening alongside my own. Black people are currently fighting for their right to be alive, and here I am talking about losing my studio space, which I am privileged to have in the first place. In truth, the same force that is killing BIPOC is the same force that is evicting artists from their spaces and people from their homes. It is capitalism, which as a value system upholds white supremacy, funds the polices, and defunds valuable community assets like the arts, education, affordable housing, etc. The gentrification of Boston has destroyed many beloved cultural spaces, artist spaces included, and has left entire communities displaced.

This is why artists, especially white artists like me, need to be a part of the Black Lives Matter movement. We need to be a part of this pro-black, anti-police, anti-capitalist movement because not only is it the correct thing to do, it directly affects us. It’s the system that’s fucking us all over, that is killing people, displacing communities, and defunding essential things like education. We need to be out there in the streets fighting alongside our BIPOC friends, not only for their rights but against the capitalist machine at large. We need to take this seriously and figure out ways to use our privilege to benefit the movement. We need to make ourselves uncomfortable and have hard conversations with our white families and friends. And we need to ask ourselves the following questions as well: What can we do as artists to defend our spaces from gentrification? How can we use our voices to make sure that spaces are accessible to the community at large? How do we especially make our spaces accessible to BIPOC artists, who are most often displaced by gentrification? What are we doing as artists to actively combat capitalism, the root of all these problems? I know we all feel helpless when we are faced with removal from our safe artists havens. But we need to start taking the proverbial bull by the horns and begin the process of making our voices heard—the voices of white artists standing in solidarity with our black comrades who have recently taken to the streets to push back against decades of inequity. We need to be fully involved in activism. We need to push back against corporate greed. We need to write letters to our elected officials. We need to engage in peaceful protest. We need to challenge the status quo, which in Boston for too long has been aggressive development and the resulting displacement. Your daily life should be changing to support the movement, and if you’re not sure how to do that, the folks at Brain Arts Org would be happy to consult you as to how you can best fit in! Email info@brain-arts.org or message them on social media.

⁠—Danielle Lauretano

Check out all the art and columns of July's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass