See update on Page 2 about the walls of the Santora building being torn down.
ORIGINAL POST, January 31, 8:00A.M.:It's hard to say when the beginning of the end for the Santora building started. It could have been a couple years ago, when news of the possibility of Newsong Church buying out the building threatened the cultural vitality of the artists, or when the contract agreement that guaranteed at least 80 percent of the building be dedicated to the arts ended in 2011, bringing in more non-art tenants like law offices within its walls. For those not closely paying attention to the ownership issues, things definitely must have gotten real when the mural adorning the walls of the Santora building's basement was painted completely over in white, an ominous sign of what was yet to come.
Yesterday, news broke out that Studio El Sotano and Green Door Gallery, longtime tenants of the Santora building, have been given eviction notice to leave from the ownership. Matt Southgate, owner of the Studio El Sotano space, in an email forwarded to The Weekly states that he was not delinquent in rent payments nor given the opportunity to discuss alternate lease options.
"Clear communication about changes in creative direction for the Santora between existing tenants have been virtually non-existent," Southgate wrote. "There has been much hinting and gesturing by new ownership as to 'New Life' and a 'New Aesthetic Approach' to be brought into the building that has for almost two decades served as the 'cultural heart of Santa Ana' but with virtually zero actual proof of these assertions being realized or validated by the new ownership."
The action comes off as an abrupt affront to the artist community from Jack Jakosky, the Newport Beach-based owner who purchased the building back in 2011 and promised to increase the number of artist tenants, touting his desire for the building to go "back to its roots." The mural being painted over was contradictory to his words, inciting protest from the artist community and inspiring distrust in Jakosky, who offered no comment or explanation of the change and hasn't responded to a Weekly request for comment.
But evictions of the artists from the building has also given artists cause to worry, as the future seems uncertain for their community. "This hits hard, because [Santora building] is not just a gallery, its a space for activists to practice our freedom of speech," says artist and Santora building tenant Alicia Rojas. Rojas has been an active member in the Santa Ana Community Artists Coalition, and works with many of the artists in the building. "Property owners have no regard for the history of the building and are really only out to service commercial ventures and Thomas Kinkade-esque artists."
All this comes on the eve of the monthly Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk, where the Santora building serves as a regular stop for visitors to check out some art. In the last couple of months, the variety in gallery spaces within the historic building has already started to look pretty sparse. "It is very sad that property owners can dictate the look and feel of a community without ever caring for it," Rojas continues. "It truly is the beginning of the end of an era."
UPDATE Feb. 4, 2:49P.M.: The walls of two Santora building studios have already started to come down.
This morning, workers were breaking down the walls of the studios of artists whose leases had ended. The studios belonged to Kalim Quevedo, while the other was former photo gallery Nomadic Village, which had already been gone for some time due to rent increases and had been left unoccupied, save for a lawyer's office inhabiting it for a bit. Quevedo had already packed his things before his lease ended as well. Both Studio El Sotano and Green Door Gallery remain intact. Jakosky, again, was not able to be reached for comment.