Santa Ana Artists Ask City to Recommit Itself to the Artists Village, Claiming Arts is Endangered There

Tomorrow, downtown SanTana will see its monthly First Saturday, which has all the galleries in the Artists Village open their doors to thousands. But not everyone will be happy--and I'm not talking about the folks gnashing their teeth about gentrification.

Feeling lost in the city's continued push to bring in restaurants, commerce, lofts, and other businesses are actual artists, especially those who have spaces in the Santora Building, where the neglectful hand of Mike Harrah reigns. Last month, a group of artists put in a public records request to find the original contract that had Harrah get a sweetheart loan with the city in the name of arts--and didn't like what they found.

Here's the letter:

It has been over 10 years since the initial Rehabilitation Loan Agreement for the Santora Building for the Arts. Unfortunately, local Artists and the City may have missed some opportunities to fulfill the agreement's potential.  One of the issues is that the agreement was not very well communicated to the benefactors and at times its existence was denied by City representatives including recently retired Cindy Nelson of the Community Redevelopment Department.

We believe there was a lack of awareness by all parties involved.  This left us local Artists in the dark regarding possible benefits the agreement offered.  All the possible options were not explored or pursued. The agreement expired last October as you might be aware.

The Santora Building for the Arts is a Historical building rich in architectural beauty but even more important is what it represents to many Artists in the city. It is a symbolic image of the power of creative freedom, culture and the opportunities that the agreement has brought to the city. The incoming restaurants and prosperity of downtown Santa Ana has been built upon this vision, The Artist Village vision.

What we can have now is a new beginning built from an understanding that at one point in time the City was very interested in encouraging the arts by even branding Santa Ana with the slogan "Santa Ana a Place for Art" by building up the Artist Village in order to bring cultural variety and economic growth. The ideology that art is rich enough to play an unequivocal part in our city, regardless of a particular economic profit is our vision.

We are here to ask for a new partnership to build a new bridge that will bring the City, Artists and its Citizens back to the drawing board. We would like to open the door of communication to explore avenues on what we can accomplish together keeping in mind that at one point the City had a vision centered on the Santora Building by providing a loan to the Santora Partners LLC but with this loan came the strict guidance to have the building be occupied 80% by artists.

The building has suffered a lack of proper maintenance in the recent years.  One of the biggest problems has been the lack of proper maintenance in its plumbing causing many floods inside the galleries and in common areas. I believe that in The Santora Agreement there was a clause placed by the City to assure proper maintenance of the building but tenants' lack of awareness of the contract limited the regulation of such.

We would like to explore some of the following ideas, knowing that we don't hold the answers. Recently at a town hall meeting sponsored by the City needing cooperation to implement a new parking plan for downtown Santa Ana, supporters of the Artist Village were the ones most in attendance with eagerness to participate in the process of implementation by providing creative ideas in the process so please let's find some answers based on the same spirit of cooperation.

1.      How can we get an Art Commissioner back in the City?
2.      How can we explore a partnership with the City to have more public art in the form of murals funded by sponsors or fundraisers?  Let's give opportunities to local artists to enhance the visual and cultural richness of the city.  We can turn Santa Ana into one of the best art destinations in the country!

3.      How can we keep the Santora Building for the Arts a matriarch for local artists in the City now that the agreement has expired? We would like to somehow protect the few Galleries that have been able to survive the recession and are still holding strong, creating and giving back to the community by still being there.
4.      How can we get our association to be recognized by the City as a formal Art Association of Artists of Santa Ana that will communicate regularly with the City and be able to participate in full transparency in plans for the Artist Village ?

We come to you knowing that we don't hold all the answers.  But what we do have is determination.  There must be a way that will enable us to at least move forward and start a new beginning of communication and participatory integration with our elected leaders and its citizens.

We will be addressing the council in the next City Council meeting with our vision. We look forward to your response and we are eager to be part of a new integration that will be beneficial to the City. Attached you will find a copy of the Santora Agreement that was attained by me via a public record request for your reference.


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