Deanna Chilian, The American Dream, 2020, Oil + cold wax + collage on cradled panel, two 12” x 12″ pieces,” $750, 100% to Equal Justice Initiative [email protected]deannachilianfineart.com

From the late 19th-mid 20th Century, Jim Crow laws did not only impact life for black Americans in the South, but throughout the nation. One manifestation of these laws that continues to negatively impact black communities and black wealth was a practice called “redlining”. Simply put, redlining was a control measure which shut black neighborhoods out of participating in the larger housing economy. In the 1930s as part of the New Deal, a government program called the Home Owners Loan Program, (HOLC) was charged with directing investment into communities to rescue homeowners as a means of stopping the bleeding caused by the Great Depression. The program color-coded cities according to risk, with red areas deemed unsuitable for investment. The red areas where bleeding was of no consequence were majority black neighborhoods. Home owners in redlined areas were unable to access resources to maintain or improve their property or build generational wealth through home equity like white neighborhoods where mortgages and equity loans were available. These neighborhoods later became targets for urban renewal projects in the 1960-70s which further served to fracture black neighborhoods and which today underpins gentrification.

The American Dream consists of two paintings. One overlays a HOLC map of Asheville from the 1930s onto a distressed red, white and blue surface. The redlined areas have been removed and disconnected from the larger community revealing the fractures and fissures underneath. The second painting places into a sea of white the puzzle pieces denoting the redlined neighborhoods. These areas were cut out of the opportunities available to the yellow, blue and green areas yet still expected to thrive and function, then targeted for re-development, providing a win-win for financial interests who risked nothing to bolster these homeowners then profited from their displacement.


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