For more than two years, Sali Heraldez has run SolArt Gallery Café because she saw a need in her community—bureaucratic hurdles be damned.
How are things going for SolArt currently as far as getting a business license or other problems with the city of Santa Ana?
The city contacted me because TheNew York Times called them and wanted to know why they had denied my license. So the city called me and then said, "Oh, no. We're working with her." So it's kind of a little trick they did. TheNew York Times read an article in Sunset Magazine, and that's how they heard about me. The city sent me an e-mail wanting to work out the details. When I went there it was basically a trick. I'm still planning on going back for a license to operate as an art gallery. I haven't really had many problems since I opened. It's just that since we don't have a license, we run on donations. That hurts me financially since I can't sell anything. If I could open as a coffeehouse or an art gallery, SolArt could sustain itself, but I fund everything out of my own pocket for the community events that happen here.
Does SolArt have a mission statement?
We don't have a mission statement because we're not a nonprofit. Our basic mission is that we're for the community. We're not for-profit, either. We try to help any group that asks us for help for space to have a fund-raiser. We give the community space to have those events. We don't say, "You're a Republican. You can't have your meeting here." If you're from the community and you have something that you're passionate about and want to work towards, we totally hook it up—we'll give you space and any contacts that you need. If there was any mission, that's probably the one. We're open to anyone.
So you're providing a space for musicians for the same reason?
Yeah, because we're open to all the arts. We have film festivals, theater performances, music performances. We have indie rock, acoustic music, son jarocho—music from Veracruz. We cater to everybody.
Is volume ever a problem with some of the louder bands that play SolArt?
Since we started having bands on a more regular basis, we try to get people that have already played here to book other bands because they'll already know the space. We give space to punk rock kids, and they totally understand and they take it as an opportunity to play. When a band plays here, kids are jumping up and down, but there's no moshing, there's no pushing. As soon as they walk in the space they know where they are. There's no jumping off furniture. It's super cool. Everybody respects it and knows where they are.
Are there ever people who just don't get it?
We've had band members that keep playing after their time. We just disconnect the music and thank them, give them their part of the door money, and good luck. They won't play here again and that's that.
So you don't have the problems traditional music venues tend to get?
We don't consider ourselves a club, so we don't act like a club. We act like we're displaying a musical performance. People come to support music they like, so we don't have a bouncer and things like that. It's not necessary. We don't get people getting drunk and being stupid.
What was your inspiration to start SolArt?
Here in Santa Ana you can see there's a need for a place for kids to congregate and music to be played. I started the art gallery [as a place for] social gathering for other organizations, for networking and building a stronghold for nonprofits in the city. It turned out all the kids in bands are willing to contribute. The way they do is they play here and the $5 donation goes to a group, or they do a fund-raiser for their favorite nonprofit group. It morphed into this thing where everyone wants to help.
What do you see in SolArt's future?
I would love to just continue supporting all the arts. From day one it's been the plan, so I'm really happy. We custom-built SolArt, so it's turned into something very personal for everybody that's been here from the beginning. We just hope to keep helping everybody that needs it and using the talents that everybody has.