The following is what I consider a sad story about a nonprofit that proved unwelcome in the neighborhood. I don't really know the merit of the work of the organization, but clearly, members of the community made-up their mind that costs were greater than benefits. Right or wrong and as a consequence, the organization is closing its doors. They will be no more.
Now the article doesn't really discuss the board or what efforts the staff made to redirect the community or even negotiate for a resolution but I can't help think that had the founders recruited a board that included members of the community and even gone further to engage members in dialog about what might be acceptable, the ending might be different.
Community engagement is not a simple task and relies on communication, transparency and honesty as well as openness to work together. Had there been a board comprised at least in part of folks who lived in the community - the space for discussion would have presented more opportunities for dialogue. Clearly, all systems failed and even the rules of negotiation weren't adhered to.
Community-based successful nonprofits are not enterprises owned and operated by the few. The lesson.....
From the LA Times:
Citing harassment and online trolling, the co-founders of an art space in Boyle Heights announced Tuesday that they will close the nonprofit, calling it a casualty of a raging fight over gentrification.
PSSST, which opened on East 3rd Street last year, came under fire from some residents and activists concerned about a new wave of galleries moving into the largely Latino Boyle Heights neighborhood.“We are unable to ethically and financially proceed with our mission,” co-founders Barnett Cohen and Jules Gimbrone and community outreach coordinator Pilar Gallego said in a statement on their website. “Our young nonprofit struggled to survive through constant attacks.”
Staff and artists were routinely trolled online and harassed in person, according to the statement from the nonprofit..
“This persistent targeting, which was often highly personal in nature, was made all the more intolerable because the artists we engaged are queer, women and/or people of color,” the statement read. “We could no longer continue to put already vulnerable communities at further risk.”
“While our closure might be applauded by some, it is not a victory for civil discourse and coalition building at a time when both are in short supply,” the statement added.
Fundraising became an impossibility as a result of a “mischaracterization” of the art space “as being fundamentally in opposition with the varied intersectional communities we aimed to support.”
Cohen declined to comment beyond the statement.
Members of the activist group Defend Boyle Heights, who have long been protesting the art spaces, shared the news on Facebook shortly after.
“We hope the rest of the galleries follow the example set by PSSST an[d] leave Boyle Heights,” the post reads.
In the last few years, more than a dozen galleries have appeared in the area, mostly in the industrial zone west of the 101 Freeway. Community activists say they fear the galleries will inflate property values and push poorer residents out.
Late last year, Los Angeles police were investigating three acts of vandalism targeting art galleries in the neighborhood, including graffiti at one gallery that attacked “white art.” An officer said they were being treated as possible hate crimes.
It is unclear what will go in the space occupied by PSSST, as the owner will now assume control of the building, the statement read.
In a Facebook post, Defend Boyle Heights said: “While we do not know what the landlord will do with the property, you can be guaranteed we will keep a close eye and involve the immediate community to resist.”