One of the street-art paintings John Criscitello discussed at this years Smoke Farm Symposium.
One of Criscitello's street-art paintings discussed at this year's Smoke Farm Symposium. John Criscitello

At last weekend's Smoke Farm Symposium, something unexpected happened. Artist John Criscitello, who's become one of the most elegantly furious and witty voices in the conversation about Seattle and its tech-driven gentrification, gave a talk about his street-art work—and a couple of tech guys who happened to be in the audience stood up and talked back.

This exchange is one of the most eloquent I've heard yet on the debate (this rough-cut version only features the first of the two tech workers):

John Criscitello (Excerpt) from Jason Evans on Vimeo.

It didn't come to any resolution, because there is no easy resolution to the fast-rising rents—compounded by lack of affordable housing and mass transit—that have hit Seattle like a freight train full of encyclopedias dropped from the top of's headquarters. (As Barry Blanton of the Blanton-Turner property management company put it in a market report last year: "The in-city Seattle market is booming with the job growth of Amazon; $3 is the new $2.")

What's unusual about the exchange is that representatives from the two camps—artist and tech employee—are actually talking face to face. I often hear (or read) artists grumbling in one corner and tech-oriented folks grumbling in another. But while the tension in the room during their back-and-forth was a little high (which doesn't fully translate in the video), the conversation was civil.

The rest of this year's Symposium talks—full disclosure: I am one of Symposium's curators—will be uploaded to this site shortly, courtesy of the Symposium's A/V whiz Jason Evans.