HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Balloons are usually a mark of celebration, but for a local artist, they are a mark of protest.
Artist and activist Anne Hars ties balloon bouquets on housing units up for sale as a demonstration against rising rents and gentrification.
“So many of those buildings are being destroyed and luxury units will take their place,” Hars said.
Her most recent project was placing balloons on a small complex in Hollywood, which is on sale for $6.3 million. A notice to demolish is already posted on the exterior. She ties the balloons in dedication of the people who will no longer be able to afford to live in the neighborhood.
She got the idea from Up, an animated movie about an old man who refuses to sell his property in a neighborhood that is being redeveloped. He ties balloons to his house and flies away.
Now Hars ties balloons on homes in communities that are being gentrified. It happened on her own block where several brown families were priced out, and she realized she may have been part of the problem.
“Because of the color of my skin, because I’m a white lady and an artist, I move to these neighborhoods and I am the first sign of gentrification. And I have to own that,” Hars said. “I can’t do anything about that but then I thought yes I can. I can’t change the color of my skin, I can’t change the fact that I’m an artist, but I can try and mitigate my message that developers seem to get when the see more white people coming and mixing into historically brown communities.”
The balloons draw looks and start conversation among neighbors about an issue they know well. They’re afraid their buildings will be next, and the charm their neighborhood once knew will be replaced by modern towers.
“It’s so poignant really because you have these beautiful, colorful balloons next to something that is going to be an utter tragedy,” said Susan Winsberg, a neighborhood resident. “I’m dressed in all black because I’m in deep mourning for Hollywood.”
Hars travels with her balloons, and walks along the sidewalk and in the street of neighborhoods across the southland.
If anyone contacts her on her website, she’ll come, and tie balloons. It’s her art and her activism. It’s her way of telling local government to find another way out of the housing crisis.
“That’s what I need to stress to people that just building a lot of housing and let developers solve our problem,” Hars said. "It’s going to make things worse, a lot worse.”