I personally have never been particularly interested in art. I appreciate it aesthetically, but I'm not someone who attempts to always find a deeper meaning. When I think of urban art, I think of graffiti. Graffiti is everywhere around the U District and in Portland, the city where I'm from. Reading this paper made me think of the wall of graffiti on 45th and 8th by UW. Every couple of months or so, it's repainted over. Some new artist comes in and paints something new. I've seen various things painted over the years from symbols of gay equality to the Seahawks to a whole mural of homeless people in front of a Safeway which appeared to be the U District Safeway on 50th and Brooklyn.
It's no longer up on the wall anymore, but that depiction of homeless people has always stuck with me. Those who are homeless, or in any way different ie: racially or ethnically or economically are typically outsiders. They do not belong-- these creations of art perhaps give them a claim to space. As someone who fits the major demographic of the U District (white and a UW student), I have never not belonged. However if urban art can be used as a way for those who do not belong to become part of the urban identity, arguably the dominant class can also use urban art as a mode to claim their space and their city. Youkhana refers to this as city branding
"Creative activism and urban art are increasingly being used as an instrument to collectively
re-appropriate the urban space and thus articulate themselves as being part of the urban
collective, being an urban citizen."
While reading this paper, I also began to think back to the readings we've done on gentrification. An urban area seems at its core a power brawl between competing groups and competing identities. A city is dynamic-- I feel like what constitutes an urban citizen is always changing. While perhaps groups are fighting to become a part of this urban landscape, when they become a part of that landscape, they've inevitably displaced the dominant class that was originally there and defined that particular version of an urban citizen.