Blue-Collar Bobos: Scenes in Bridgeport, Chicago
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Vincent Arrigo and John Thompson

Urban Policy Analysis/Culture and Politics

Prof. Terry Nichols Clark



Blue-Collar Bobos: Scenes in Bridgeport, Chicago

            Bridgeport, a neighborhood in Chicago, does not seem to be the quintessential arts community. In popular local narratives, Bridgeport represents the prototypical Chicago neighborhood. It is the birthplace of the Daleys’ mayoral dynasty and an exemplar of Chicago’s machine politics. Bridgeport was formerly the place where “the city that works” did its grittiest labor; the blue-collar Catholic Irish and Italians who worked in Chicago’s manufacturing plants and stockyards resided there. To top it off, Bridgeport possesses the iconic US Cellular Field (though it’s difficult to find a Bridgeport resident who will refer to it by a name other than the nostalgic “Comiskey Park”), the home of one of Chicago’s two baseball franchises, the White Sox. The traditionalist mindset and local pride of native residents does not seem particularly conducive to facilitating an arts scene. Yet, recently, the Lumpen art collective, a group of hipster “shock” artists, and the Zhou Brothers, international fine arts stars, have each adopted the west side of Bridgeport as their staging ground. We want to investigate how Bridgeport—and neighborhoods similar to it—associated with local politics and working-class culture can serve as a setting for an emerging art scene. Recent scholarship on the appearance of cultural amenities in areas previously thought unsuitable for supporting such amenities has emphasized cultural hybridity—the combination of multiple cultures—as the reason for their appearance. Second, this research suggests that areas exhibit such hybridity coincident with increases in income, education, and the number of young people in the area. Using sociological and aesthetic theory, ethnography, and data analysis, we intend to discover whether Bridgeport has indeed spawned a hybrid culture and whether or not the emergence of this new local culture coincides with increases in income, education, and young people in the neighborhood.