Boyle Heights art gallery announces closure due to protests, harassment

A Boyle Heights art gallery is closing down due to pressure from anti-gentrification protesters.

In a statement posted online Tuesday,  PSSST art gallery says its founders were dedicated to fostering a dialogue between diverse communities through art exhibits. Now the gallery is closing due to being inundated with what they call “constant attacks.”

The non-profit art gallery adds that “the ongoing controversy surrounding art and gentrification in Boyle Heights caused PSSST to become so contested that we are unable to ethically and financially proceed with our mission.” PSSST says their staff and artists were routinely harassed online and in-person.

Locked door at PSSST Gallery in Boyle Heights.

Defend Boyle Heights, a vocal group that advocates against gentrification, applauded the art gallery closing. “We hope the rest of the galleries follow the example set by PSSST [and] leave Boyle Heights,” the group said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Tensions between art gallery owners and community advocates has long existed as some accuse the galleries of gentrifying Boyle Heights. Protesters say the art galleries bring outsiders to the area, raising property values, and displacing long-time renters. Some art galleries and exhibition spaces have said they are part of the immigrant community that Boyle Heights has historically been home to, and that they are using art as a way to tell their story.

Vandalism against art galleries in Boyle Heights has been the subject of a hate crime investigation by the LAPD because graffiti condemned “white art.” Protesters associated with Defend Boyle Heights previously crashed art gallery receptions and served the artists mock-eviction notices telling them to leave the neighborhood.

PSSST founders said they actively worked with underrepresented artists including women, people of color, and artists who identify as LGBT. The art gallery says they did not intended to  be at odds with the local community.

PSSST said they leased their space  at 1329 East 3rd Street, which will now go back to the owner. Defend Boyle Heights said they will be watching what pops up there next.

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