Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #9 – Gentrification as modern day colonialism


This past semester, art students in Brett Colley’s class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual, social movement or a particular moment in history.

What we will be sharing from here on out over the next several weeks, are the result of what these students created, based on their own investigation or based on previous posting from the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. We are excited to have these newly created visuals to compliment the rich history of social movements from the resistance to white settler colonialism all the way up to the present.

This print was created by Christi Wiltenburg. It communicates the idea that the current manifestations of gentrification are a form of modern day colonialism. One could certainly argue that the forceable relocation of indigenous people from what is now Grand Rapids, was a form of gentrification. 

Other examples of gentrification that we have seen in Grand Rapids, was the displacement of thousands of people when the highways were built through town, plus multiple examples of “urban renewal,” resulting in displacement of people in the Belknap area  and in the East Hills neighborhood

Gentrification as the new colonialism is also happening today in Grand Rapids, as is evidenced in numerous development projects, where displacement of working class people and communities of color is taking place, like the Coit Square project. 


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