At the Smoke Farm Symposium, Artist John Criscitello Talked About Tech Gentrification—and Some Tech Guys Talked Back

Comments

1
Meh, the tensions weren't that high. They all had some beers afterwards.

I thought (and still do) that Criscitello has 2 targets and can't tease them apart, and winds up looking (hilariously) churlish:
1. development/gentrification. his posters point at the symptoms (tech guys) not the disease (capital).
2. bridge and tunnel revellers (who are being attracted by bars opened up TO ATTRACT THEM).

I'm not convinced the brogrammers and the gay bashing douchebros are the same people.
2
I love John.
3
Yes, the art is funny and witty, but I'm glad someone had the gumption to call him out on his bullshit.
4
How dare these people take offense to being negatively stereotyped!
5
This could just be me, but I keep hearing arguments from artists like that video, and they don't center around art or art shows/film/theatre prices, it is all about bars.
They don't say "techies move in, and price artists out of going to plays and living near a theatre!"
They say "techies move in, and price artists out of going to the bar and living near the bars!"
I just don't see how techies are keeping artists from practicing their craft or selling work. They are just making it more expensive to drink a lot.

To me this seems all about the price of a beer, and culture is only being mentioned because folks who self-describe as artists will intellectualize everything.
6
Very interesting. I don't like tech workers that work 80 hours a week, but I'm in product development, which is tech, and a meeting of engineers and artists. so I get it. I'll say this: "creativity" is found in many areas, and building products is one of them.
7
Hmmm. Lots of tech in the presentation using a nice expensive Apple. Using tech to record it and blog it. My guess is that part of the reason Capitol Hill seems less of a LGBT oasis is that more Seattle neighborhoods are LGBT friendly then they were in the 70s or 80s etc. Also, there is a symbiotic relationship between artist and the new wealthy. The artists are not making a living selling their works to each other or people who live in cheap studio apartments. Just sayin'.
8
All the thing John said about development is correct, but his target is wrong. Why not go after the developers/politicians?

No one was paying 1400 a month for a studio apartment 3-4 years ago because we just came out of a recession. Seattle came out ok out of the 2008 crash, except housing was pretty much halted for a few years afterwards as developers didn't want to invest.

Then amazon started hiring like crazy. And a lot of foreign money started buying up the housing stock (I suspect due to Canada shutting down it's investor immigration program). So housing, which went undeveloped for the years following the crash, was squeezed.

Not to mention there's basically no renter's rights in this state/town. So we got a perfect shit storm.

And what's John doing? Trying to make things better? Nope, he's just trying to bash the "new" people to "his" neighborhood (never mind he moved here 2 years ago).

Not to mention his attitude towards women seems very misogynistic.

But hey, I bet it's selling art like crazy. Go capitalism
10
Interesting: John is a recent transplant from Brooklyn. He moved here four years ago. Apparently he is upset with everyone who came here after him. Also, he was married to a woman and only came out five years ago. So he divorced, came out of the closet, moved from Brooklyn to Seattle and is now making good money selling some humorous art, and he's getting tons of free press from The Stranger. His plan is clearly working - shed the past and re-invent yourself. Sounds a little like what is happening to Capitol Hill itself.

There are some psychological layers behind his angry tirade that need to be considered.

11
Neigborhood turnover is a natural phenomenon that occurs with time. I've seen areas go to total shit with blockbuster-tactics by scare-monger real estate scum/agents whipping up turnover. Similarly, I've seen run down neglected areas gentrified and turned into vital neighborhoods. As @10 said - Cap. Hill is not special snowflake to be frozen in time as an affordable gay theme park. As happened with immigrant-affinity neighborhoods in the past, they mutate & migrate somewhere else, and that somewhere else becomes the community. To just whine and bitch and play the victim card is so.... Republican. This does not excuse the weekend asshole Bro-invasion, and the cute-for-a-very-brief-interval Woo Girls who come along for the ride.
12
The Cedar Tavern?
He just moved from New York. He knows full well how neighborhoods transform constantly and change throughout time, for better or mostly worse.

Greenwich Village may have been a long-time hub of creativity in NYC, but he obviously knows that for the last 30 years it's been a bridge and tunnel nightmare. You might as well be lamenting Pioneer Square.

The creatives moved to SOHO, then to the East Village and Tribeca, then to the LES and Williamsburg, and on and on as they became popular destinations and attracted "new" people.

It's constant change. Maybe get creative.
13
I did not know that he moved here 4 years ago. Guess I could have given him a primer on what his Gayborhood looked like 20 years ago: filled with lots of straights then, too.
14
Also, NYC has had rapid gentrification, look at the high line and what it's done. I really don't get why people in Seattle who rant about our housing issue talk about NYC like it's some housing paradise...
15
Do not, I repeat, do not tell me that the self appointed protectorate of my neighborhood has lived in it less than 5 years. That bothers my brain.
16
Jesus. When is this guys 15 minutes going to be up?

I don't recall electing this asshole as a spokesman for The Seattle That Was. He's lived here less than five years and is another white guy who went to a private 30K a year art school and he has the balls to be going around pulling up the drawbridge?

Seems like he's making a tidy living and name for himself exploiting a scene he barely knows and tossing around lazy stereotypes at low hanging fruit.
17
Amazon moved to South Lake Union the same time he moved to Cap Hill, for fuck's sake.
18
He's lived here for 4 years? This guy is nostalgic for a Capitol Hill he's never even experienced. 2015 Capitol Hill has a lot more in common with 2011 Capitol Hill than 2011 Capitol Hill had with 2007 Capitol Hill. People are worried about street drunks, people pissing in doorway and alleyways, and violence against queers. Well when I was a teenager in 1984 coming up to Capitol Hill to buy punk rock records and cop drugs guess what I saw? Street drunks, people pissing in public and violence against queers. The only thing that has changed is the tax bracket. I'm not about to listen to an indictment of changing Capitol Hill from somebody who has never bought a record at Fallout or Sound Affects and has never eaten a slice of Rocket Pizza.
19
Two blog posts (first is mine) that sandwich the perspectives on recent Seattle growth. I try to make an argument for why we shouldn't be too unwelcoming of tech workers:
http://ccavnor.kinja.com/is-amazon-toxic…
http://gawker.com/how-amazon-swallowed-s…
20
FYI: John Criscitello is not helping Capitol Hill, he's just creating commerce and noteriety for himself. He's a recently out-of-the-closet Brooklyn hipster who transplanted himself here and enjoys posing as a spokesman for something he knows nothing about.

Please, people, don't give this guy any more airtime/credence/notoriety/attention/credibility - he's just using us. I can't believe more people didn't see through him a while back. The Stranger has been heaping its typical childlike awe upon this guy without any due diligence on him (typical of what The Stranger has become). He's a Williamsburg Brooklyn hipster who, after years as a closet case, finally grew a pair and came out. Afraid of his past, he ran to Seattle and has reinvented himself as the spokesman for "old" Capitol Hill. I CALL BULLSHIT on this guy. It's about time someone did.

Now, how about getting The Stranger to do a thoughtful, adult-level, well-written expose on John Criscitello? Yeah, not going to happen. This rag is run by Keck and Savage and they just want the money to keep pouring in from advertisers, so count on more pieces lavishing attention on this fraud.

Sorry to call it out like it really is, but someone had to.
21
We are literally getting priced out of our homes and neighborhoods, unable to afford housing in the neighborhoods we grew up in near our places of employment and we dont make enough to have the option to commute from outside of town, look at the way you smug fuckers are talking, "we want to live near the culture and night life!" Meanwhile you are driving out the people who make that happen and when called on your shit instead of taking any sort of responsibilty or at the very least attempt to see the point of view of people you are displacing and have any sort of empathy for them directly suffering from your choices you pull bullshit trying to sidestep even acknowledging your negative impact "Don't blame me! This is just how neighborhoods naturally change!" Fuck you. Fuck you so hard. The city needs renter laws and your influx, which is tantamount to an invasion, is having an impact on folks in real estate trying to get a bigger and bigger piece of that sweet sweet tech money pie taking advantage of this and you are more than willing to go along with it and then have the gall to make excuses and blame your victims in order to try and justify your actions to yourselves. Picture this, if you really just can't understand and empathize with us, you're sitting in a chair at a show, the room is a little more than half full but there are still plenty of seats, all of a sudden your seat gets pulled out from under you, you look up incredulously as the owner of the venue sets the chair back down and exlaims to the man next to him "here! This seat is exactly where you were looking to sit, that will be five hundred dollars please" the man exclaims "what a steal! I thought i was going to have to sit in the back!" You voice your indignation at having been thrown from your seat and the new occupier tells you that you've had your turn and to get over yourself, you have no recourse so you move to the next closest seat and are told it will now be another four hundred and ninety dollars if you want to sit down at that seat, so you go further out to the back row and told it will be another 300 to sit there and you are now loitering and need to leave if you aren't going to pay the new increased ticket price for the seats available so you are forced to stand in the lobby until made to go outside and listen from there. Seem fair? Thats just how the market works bud.
22
It was actually refreshing to hear some conversation eloquently expressing some different points of view. I've lived on the Hill for 35 years. It has changed a lot. Constantly. Guess what? It will change again. It took a lot of guts for the tech guy to stand up and question John. I mean everyone talks about homogeneity being the horrible thing, but the troubling thing to me is when any group, either side starts to generalize and position the opposition as some "other" simplified version of reality it doesn't do their argument any favors from my perspective. Let's have constructive conversation. Let's expose new tech residents to the beauty and creativity that we create. Let's have a conversation with them and maybe they can create apps that help us reach even more people with our art. I'm an old, bald white heterosexual. I've lived on the hill since 1978. I hope it's okay if i'm here, too.
23
@21, the same thing's been happening in the CD in the 90s & 00s and those on the hill didn't seem to give a shit. No one cares until it happens to them and then it's too late. So instead of hating on the newcomers, why not try to get some rent regulations passed, which I bet the newcomers will support.

It sucks balls that people are getting priced out, but blaming the newcomers who had no hand in setting up the laws in this state only keeps us separate and puts a huge wedge in change actually happening.

But John doesn't care about this, as he told CHS "I'm a capitalist" and he's doing what capitalists always do, profiting of others problems.
24
"46-year old white man yells at kids to get off his lawn."
25
This is fundamentally about income inequality. If the old residents/artists/bohemians of Capitol Hill had a new neighborhood attracting them that they were happy to be drawn to, there wouldn't be so much concern and anger about the changes happening on CH. But the new folks moving in have alot more money--they can go live pretty much anywhere they want, they have chosen CH--while the starving artists and others who used to live on CH have much fewer options. It takes time and money to move and rebuild.

A cultural space that organically developed over many years is being disrupted, with no immediate replacement. It takes time and money to rebuild, and needs to happen organically somewhere else all over again. So, income inequality, and of course, class. Folks with more political/economic power are exercising that power over other folks with less power. The point is this is a really deep issue and needs a deeper solution than just slowing gentrification.
26
@21,
I don't think it's that people don't get that rents are out of control. It's the hypocrisy of someone like this John guy who, to use your analogy, came to the show late and paid $400 to the venue owner to sit next to you, then lays into the next guy who paid $500 like he's the asshole. Then he rallies you and the rest of the crowd to direct all of your anger and hate at the guy who came right after him, not only accusing him of ruining the show, but of beating up other attendees. All the while the venue owner sits back and counts his money and John sells him a glue-soaked doodle.
27
I am a (female) tech worker, and I moved to Seattle and specifically Capitol Hill FOR the art, culture and music. The last thing I want to do is drive all that out of the neighborhood. I've only lived here for 3 weeks, but I sincerely appreciate the authenticity of the vibe of Cap Hill, and respecting that is very important to me. I just hope that folks here can see me as an individual, rather than just one in a herd of tech workers who don't give a shit.
28
Hey John Criscitello: I'm a white woman. You may see me walking through Capitol Hill in yoga pants with a cup of coffee in my hand on any given day. What you don't see is that I'm on my way to the studio. Surprise, I'm an artist too! I've spent the past 15 years creating and being a part of a vibrant artistic community here in Seattle. You also don't see that I'm not straight. I'm pretty sure you hate me when you see me, but who the fuck are you?

Seriously, who the fuck are you? What you haven't learned about Seattle yet is that many of the artists and community builders in this town support (or formerly supported) themselves in tech jobs, including at Amazon. Many of our patrons and friends are in tech, including at Amazon. Technologists and software architects are often crucial collaborators in our multidisciplinary art. many of them created some of our favorite things in this town.

I agree there has been a lot of rapid change lately. I live on the southern edge of Capitol Hill and I see it. I don't love going out on Friday or Saturday any more. I occasionally get frustrated because I remember what it was like 20 years ago and that was fun back then. But you know, there was also a lot of rapid change happening when I was first visiting and moving to Seattle, too -- I miss Belltown, man. That's been ruined for ages. But to simplify it as tech vs artists or tech vs LGBT is reductionist and inaccurate. Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, help support us and draw like minded people to us. They are a part of the core of this city and to vilify everyone who works in their industries is not helpful.

Now those bridge and tunnel folks... screw them.
29
@26, yes.

And I want to add, my comment @28 is not meant to discount the very real issue of people being priced out of their homes. I just think that at the core it's not a certain type of WORKER that is the problem.
30
@28 agreed 100%
31
John Cristicello is the shit and he's totally right. What all these butt-hurt techbros and yuppies are failing to admit (because they're just too ignorant to be sensitive to it) is that people of the LGBTQ community as well as the artists, musicians and others who flock to neighborhoods like the old Capitol Hill, are an oppressed MINORITY seeking shelter and safety. To people like them/us, the presence of ignorance, intolerance and stupidity is a DAILY OPPRESSION that affects our lives drastically. 95% of this country is a landscape where people like yuppies, bros and other psychologically stunted individuals reign - aggressively and often by the means of abusive behavior - and people of the LGBTQ and artists' community don't feel safe, because the ignorant assholes who make up the majority of the human race will bully, assault and harass them on the streets for being different. Beyond the obvious and quantifiable difference in the cultural offerings available on Capitol Hill now, techbros and yuppies turn the world into a high school cafeteria, where cocky ignorance, intimidation and attention whoring are the ultimate social commodities, not actual intelligence or substance as a human being. Because they aren't tolerant or intelligent, they're insecure and full of fake bravado.

That's the difference between bros and people who're in the underground. We don't actually want anything from you, bros and yuppies. We want to stay away from you, because we find dealing with the symptoms of your ignorance and stupidity oppressive, and also quite grating. We don't want your attention or need your validation (we've already graduated from high school!), though you seem very hungry for ours. Your bullshit is an unwelcome interruption to our lives. Bros come up to the hill because they're not making enough of a splash in Pioneer Square. They need to create a real culture shock to get that fix of attention to validate their sad, sad egos. For the most part, they're uncivilized assholes who're (unsuccessfully) attempting to cover up their inadequacies with volume and bravado. It's just so goddam annoying. Go home and deal with your shit asshole. Straighten your head out. Grow up. Face your inadequacies instead of trying to pawn them off onto people you perceive as easy victims.

What this comes down to is the artists and other creators of this neighborhood are saying

"Hey, you're stifling the flame of what we've got going here, along with appropriating our home and smashing our way of life. And instead of doing that, why not go to ANY of the other places in the city or world that serve your needs, instead of destroying our one home, because we can't just go ANYWHERE ELSE like you can and find safety, comfort and respect."

And the tech bros and yuppies, like butt-hurt little stomping babies, are saying

"Nothing's changed, it's only more expensive! I'm just as good as you!!!"

But the truth is, you're not. Your existence is valid, but the fact that you're ignorant to what we are EVEN TRYING TO CONVEY TO YOU shows that you aren't cognizant of what you lack. You can't conceive of it. You're too defensive and trying to defend your pathetic ego to see the truth. You don't care about truth, you only care about an emotional sense of superiority and dominance - a particularly broey quality.

Asking why an artist is more interesting or enriching than an ignorant basic bitch is like asking why the world is more interesting with art, music, literature, philosophers, poets, film.... I mean duh.
32
Keep saying Cap Hill losers
33
@27 You sound like a nice individual, but the sad thing is, the influx of people wanting to sit back and enjoy the "authentic artistic vibe" as spectators has pushed out all the people who actually created and maintained that vibe. It's already greatly diminished, and it'll be completely gone before long.
34
@21 Right on!
35
So much misogyny. How is it there aren't already 30 comments pointing this out?
36
Cristicello moved here a few years ago from New York. I'm a Western Washington native, and have lived in Seattle since the mid-90s. But I don't belong in his New World Order vision of what Capitol Hill should be. I wonder what Chief Sealth would say about this.
37
oooh so the women in yoga pants are just bait for the real people (who are actually conscious so you can have a problem with them). if women are only props to you, you can get the fuck out of this neighborhood too, I certainly won't miss you. in my experience these artists can be even more misogynist than the tech workers, which makes them pretty intellectually dishonest, so are they really artists?
38
@35: Not only misogyny (bait??!?? are you fucking serious???) but a boatload of latent racism here. Instead of talking about broader issues of affordability and difficulties with communities of color struggling with poverty to survive amidst gentrification, you get some dumb fucker that complains that the price of his beer is too high, and whines that a popular neighborhood close to downtown has higher rents than it did 5 years ago. Sorry, but preserving some kind of fucking "authentic" Cap Hill as a hipster playground in the white part of Seattle doesn't really rank high in my list of priorities for action.

Or @31, who apparently believes that being shoved into a locker one too many times as a kid gives them the holier-than-thou right to discriminate and exclude people they don't like from a neighborhood.
39
I would have thought John would have had an uphill battle to get me to disagree with him. Gay bashing? Completely unacceptable. Rent stabilization? Completely necessary. Stopping the rampant spread of soulless corporations? I agree. Maintaining the spirit and soul of this city? Yes. Let's.
But wow. John totally astonished! His incredible misogyny, blatant racism, and desire to create an us-versus-them dynamic was appalling. John claims he's "holding up a mirror" to the "rich tech kids" and that they don't like what they see. Well, John, they're holding up a mirror to you too. It's basic psychology. And *you* don't like what *you* see.
The talks up at the farm this year were sensitive, nuanced, and delightful. All except for John's. John isn't interested in a solution, he just wants to spread his hatred around. Maybe he should follow the model of the lecturer before him, take some psychedelics, do some meditation, and get to the bottom of what his anger is really about.
40
He needs a PR manager. I volunteer as tribute.
41
John Cristicello is right. And to all those worrying about his motives - keep your eyes on the issues and don't worry about attacking the messenger. This is a rallying cry for instituting a policy of affordable rentals for art studios and affordable housing for all in Seattle. Fighting among ourselves is exactly what keeps powerful forces in place which also destroy us. It is has been historically what those at the top rely on - the poor and disenfranchised will fight among themselves and forget about their real enemies.

42
I've lived here all my life and could give a rat's ass about how long he's lived here; why? because he's learned how to become local and has taken on a local fight--something which many newbs don't know how to do . Has your whole building been economically evicted in 90 days? No? Mine has--and so have many of my friends. We don't care about your fucking opinion because your feelings have been hurt that he didn't get your highlights just right in his work. Yes, neighborhoods evolve, but like we've said OVER AND OVER again, 90 days to move out is not an "evolutionary neighborhood shift" but a massive eviction. We love John, because he brought his hard ass East Coast no-nonesence, "don't fuck with my neighborhood" attitude and blended it well with his passive-agressive new home (we've all been too quiet to ask you not to bulldoze our culture). He is one of us!!!! one of us!!!....we wouldn't be having this heated conversation without his art as a reference point; and it's concept and ability to clearly ruffle feathers is exactly what we need--and more of...stop crying about getting our chill and learn how to adapt without taking over, or move the fuck on. Contribute something to the community that doesn't involve building another hot-yoga studio at the expense of evicting more locals.
43
But John Cristicello is fostering that in-fighting, pitting renters against renters. He's not offering solutions to institute a policy of affordable rentals, he's inciting hatred of a group of renters he (and many like him) sees as 'other.'

He's like some bizzarro Donald Trump of Capitol Hill, where the Mexican rapists are Amazonian gay bashers.

I don't care what his motives are. I just think he's perpetuating the problem by creating a single scapegoat, not shining a light on anything that might help.
44
THEY TUK ER JERBS!
45
What about the people who buy up the new condos for "investments" or second (or third or fourth) homes so they sit empty, or are only occupied a few times a year? That's worse than the most broey tech bro or wooey woo girl - and it's more common than you'd realize. Proof that we're not taxing the rich nearly enough.
46
Cap Hill hipster douchebags are the most parochial, venomous, tribalistic motherfuckers on the planet. Here's a fun game: replace any variation of the word 'brogrammer' with 'Jew' or 'Negro'. Basically the same sentiment, isn't it?

It's great that Capitol Hill has found its George Wallace to stir up hatred of the filthy horde of cultural barbarians in order to distract people from the problem of paying off their MFA degrees with their part time jobs at Whole Foods.
47
@46 - You nailed it on the head! Well stated.
48
Well, well stated but for the fact you said "Cap Hill". Please, people, it's Capitol Hill.
49
In the punk and metal communities there's a word that describes people like John. That word is "Poser." Amazon has lived in Seattle longer than John Criscolololoto. Also how many of you people bashing Amazon are also for a liveable wage? Amazon pays that and you still tear at them. I mean they aren't the goose that laid the golden egg or anything. They're just a place to work that pays well.

Oh yeah. Hey Artists and creative types and other hipsters...there are plenty of places in Seattle to find decent rents but that would actually require you to live near brown people.
50
i move to capitol hill in 1982, south cap hill and the central district neighborhoods were predominately african american; remnants of the neighborhood covenants that kept blacks, jews, filipino, chinese and japanese out of most of the nicer seattle neighborhoods and rooted in this part of town. being a liberal town, seattle- particularly cap hill became the center of the gay and lesbian community and a great many moved here from all over the country. their affluence, white privilege and access to capital began the first REAL gentrification of capitol hill in the '80's and 90's. one example is 'the cuff' which for many years until the late 80's was "oscar's", a popular black owned restaurant (amongst other things) was forced to move further east and then pressured to shut down all together by the affluent business community moving in (with help from the cops and the liquor board) . in other words gentrification had already happened along time ago for a great many long time seattle natives. my wife and i may have to go ourselves in this wave after all this time but it seems to me "what goes around comes around"
51
@45, good luck getting anyone talking about that. Or about any of the foreign investments that have flowed down now that Canada shut down it's investor visa.
52
@41, @50 - I'm surprised at people who say they've lived on the hill on their lives and yet have not paid attention to how little renter rights Seattle actual has. It seems most people on "the hill" didn't pay attention to the communities in CD being pushed out in the 90s & 00s. Don't blame the new people for lack of renters rights, its the community that's been here for years that's done nothing to change it.
53
It isn't like people are fighting to preserve affordabl housing for underclass minorities, people of color, or little old ladies on fixed iincome, or even working class people who grew up in the neighborhood. How many people on the hill grew up there? I know a couple nd they left a long time ago. But they were born to well off liberal volvo driving elites. That is what people are fighting for in other cities. this is about kids who did not grow up there. Sure, it was cool while it lasted. I Loved living there in the 80s for pocket change. But i know I don't have any right to live there if I can't afford it. On top of that, how many of these kids ar ereally artists who need space? Hell, Capitol Hill is not Belltown. there are no artist's warehouse painting studios. Never were. So what exactly makes them so special that they desrve to be subsidized somehow? I would rather subsidie poor, little old ladies, etc. On top of that. artists always insist that the newcomers came for the artistic community they built. Sorry to disappoint you, but there are not here for your shitty performance art or the word Fuck painted on a canvas. they are here for the proximity to downtown, and shops and restaurants. good restaurants and bars. Not some shitty hipster place that serves pabst. And everyone, please. It is not cap hill. but it is barely capitol hill. If you want to sound like a trule lifelong Seattlite, it is "The Hill"
54
#techbrosmatter