Historic landmark bought by a church



The college-leased art gallery located in the historic Santa Ana Santora Arts Building is getting a new landlord.

Irvine-based Newsong Church is buying the property for $6.2 million and will take ownership in July. The building’s tenants, mostly artists, are concerned about the possibility of censorship. Santa Ana College has rented the space since 1996 and its lease is up for renewal next year.

“Our church has a long history of connecting with artist groups and we want to improve the environment for artists at the art village,” said Tom Greer, chief financial officer of Newsong Church.

But other occupants of the historic building worry about the future of their studios and galleries despite reassurances from the church.

A staple in downtown Santa Ana’s Artist Village, the Santora Building is also home to the Memphis Cafe, GCS clothing store and Proof Bar.

The galleries display art with themes that could be found offensive. For its part, SAC Arts Gallery’s goal is to educate the community about artistic and visual culture, said Caroline McCabe, SAC Arts Gallery coordinator.

If the situation becomes problematic, the gallery will not stay in the building, McCabe said.

“Will they ask us to put up curtains on our windows if they move in across from us?” asked McCabe. “Santa Ana College promotes all types of art in our gallery and we are not going to be told what type of art to display.”

But Greer said there is no intention to censor any of the art.

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“There is interest to construct a theatrical performing arts venue in the building where its primary use would be for the community, although there would be times when the church would want to use it,” said Greer.

For Green Door music coordinator Nathan Warren, the sale of the building stirs a passion in the space his mother has leased for eight years.

“I’m depressed by the whole thing,” Warren said. “Why purchase a building that has already been raised from the ashes? Revitalize some of the other places that haven’t been revitalized.”

Sylvia Turner, Dean of Fine and Performing Arts, however, refuses to speculate. “I can’t answer a hypothetical question,” Turner said.

Front of the Santora Building with two American flags waging. Several stores beside Santora Building have exclusive sculptured ceramic pattern on the top of the store fronts.
SOLD: Irvine’s Newsong Church is poised to acquire the downtown Arts District’s Santora Building.

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