One Street Artist’s Battle Against The Gentrification Identity Crisis

Features Writer
09.09.16 2 Comments
Austin, Texas, has been one of the country’s favored outposts for artists, ramblers, and vagabonds for a long time. Like Portland, people talk about the city with reverence, fantasizing about all the good music they’ll listen to, cool theaters they’ll visit, and donuts they’ll eat just as soon as they hit town.

Somehow, amidst more than a decade of hype, the city has managed to stay weird (adopting that exact phrase as a slogan) while still growing. As downtown prices rise and population booms, East Austin has become a sought-after destination — resulting in an all-to-common tale of woe in modern America. The cost of living has climbed, families are struggling to stay afloat, small businesses can’t compete, and old buildings are being uprooted to make room for McMansions, condos, and mixed-use development. These changes pave the way for businesses with no history or connection to the community to move in, while longtime residents get priced out of their neighborhoods.

Austin resident and street artist Eleanor Herasimchuk (who goes by the street name Niz) has witnessed the gradual erosion of culture in East Austin. Now, she wants to make a difference — capturing the spirit of local neighborhoods with murals on buildings before development leaves the city bland. Niz knows that her art can’t stop a bulldozer, but she believes there’s value in drawing attention to each neighborhood’s unique spirit while starting conversations about the untold costs of development.

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