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It was the city’s first economic summit, with more than 125 of “Hamilton’s most powerful voices in business, the arts, government, social services, health and education” in attendance, who called for a reinvention of Hamilton’s image within three to five years, according to the To support the business of art, Hamilton’s downtown core has been subject to various efforts to “clean up” the streets, including the introduction of 24-hour video surveillance, increased police foot patrols, and legal and illegal evictions from heritage buildings to make way for businesses serving young, hip consumers.
As developers work to re-create space for the incoming creative class, people living in poverty, who have long resided in the downtown core, are being forced out. North and Gore Park, the heart of downtown Hamilton, have borne the brunt of these changes – both neighbourhoods feature a special police foot patrol, 24-7 video surveillance and more assigned police presence than any other area of the city.
These two neighbourhoods have become focal points of a fiery debate on surveillance, gentrification and the division of public space within Hamilton’s downtown core.
Exemplified by two art exhibits and the media coverage that surrounds them, the debate over the right to space in Hamilton reflects similar gentrification struggles being waged in cities across the country in pursuit of sanitized downtown cores pandering to a “creative class” of young urban professionals (for more info on the creative class, click here).
The transformation of space by and for a wealthier class in Hamilton is exemplified by the recent work of local “poverty porn” artists, most notably Gary Santucci, whose surveillance and slide show project “The Hood, The Bad and The Ugly” was exhibited at You Me Gallery in September 2009, and Larry Strung, whose April 2010 exhibition at a nearby gallery was called “A Child of God.” Both exhibits consisted largely of photos of women presumed to be doing sex work.
Both were collections of images of women in the Landsdale neighbourhood, exhibited in the James St. And both shed light on the invasive, forceful and colonizing nature of gentrification in the city.
if we do nothing the social climate in Hamilton will not stay the same.
“Their law-and-order agenda seemed unshakable,” she explained.
It’s an all-too-common case of gentrification, where class divisions determine the division and use of public space.
Gentrification displaces poor and marginalized populations from physical and cultural spaces, and transforms them into spaces used exclusively by the more affluent.
In May 2008, creative class theorist Richard Florida was the keynote speaker at Hamilton’s day-long economic summit.
The reported his proclamation that “you can’t help but be part of a boom, you can’t really miss,” given Hamilton’s location in the cross-border “mega-region” that Florida described as stretching from Waterloo, through Montreal and Toronto, and into New York state.