The City as a Work of Art: Examining Artistic Influences on Urban Transformation

Discussant: Marina Peterson

This panel examines the large-scale impacts of art (and related processes) on urban placemaking, with particular attention to how art impacts the form of cities, writ large. We are in conversation with several bodies of recent scholarship that have shown art as a force which can reshape not only urban imaginaries but the city itself. Art can reorganize the relationships between urban groups, mark out new boundaries, rearrange urban heritage, and produce new knowledge of the city. Artistic institutions can form powerful economic blocks that drive urban development, and social practice in artistic milieus can have powerful impacts upon subjecthood while also driving gentrification or wider dispossessions. What is at stake in these urban transformations? And what, particularly, is gained by attention to the role of art in urban change? In what ways is the city itself “artistic?” and how does this open up space for political possibility, activism, or violence? There is significant evidence connecting art to dispossessive processes and neoliberal subjectification. Yet at the same time, panelists are encouraged to take seriously the possibility, often espoused by artists, that art may be a tool for social justice. In what ways may art contribute to remediating inequity and/or opening brighter urban futures?

If you are interested in participating in this panel, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to We welcome submissions dealing with any aspect of art, understood broadly, so long as the art is connected to urban change and the paper addresses the themes outlined above. Submissions must be received by March 28 for consideration.