By: Rogelio Santana
More than 50 artists and patrons cloaked in black mourned the closure of Matthew Southgate’s ‘Studio del Sotano’ in the Santora Building Feb. 21. A local deejay played while a crowd of about 30 people danced and admired paintings displayed for their final hours.
Southgate is one of two artists evicted from the Santora Building after a recent change in ownership. Kathie Warren, owner of Green Door Gallery, is the other.
The move, some community members say, will damage the protest art movement. Southgate’s studio, a hub for social activism in the Occupy Santa Ana and United Artists of Santa Ana, has battled ongoing urban renewal downtown.
“There was no communication beforehand. Usually landlords have discussions with you and discuss if they are going to change the rental criteria and there was none,” Southgate said.
Jack Jakosky, president of a Newport Beach-based property management company purchased the aging historic arts building in October. Since then, he has repaired leaking pipes, refinished the grand hardwood staircase and laid new carpet.
“Some of the changes were long overdue. When I had a gallery here, there were always issues, like flooding. It seemed like there was really no infrastructure,” said Sandra Pocha Pena Sarmiento, director of the OC Film Festival.
He also painted over Southgate’s basement mural, “Surreal Santa Ana,” a politically rebellious take on the Wizard of Oz.
“When they painted over the mural, I knew it was going to be a difficult relation with the landlord,” said Southgate.
But Jakosky does have supporters who say that improvements to the building were long overdue, including Santa Ana College art faculty. The college has a gallery space in the building.
“The owner is incredibly happy that we’re there. He’s really trying to inspire students,” said SAC Gallery Director Phil Marquez, adding that the day after escrow closed, Jakosky met with faculty members to discuss the direction of the building and his dedication to educational institutions.
The college gallery has no chance of being evicted, Marquez said.
Jakosky planned to turn the building into a satellite location for the Museum of Latin American Art, but the $300,000 annual price tag was too much, according to reports from the Voice of OC.
Since the shift in ownership, the Santora Building has hosted two concerts. One was in collaboration with the California State University Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center. The other was a SAC jazz ensemble performing in the second floor atrium.
Jakosky reached out to SAC to plan the performance, said Dean of Fine and Performing Arts Eve Kikawa.
Jakosky has not returned repeated requests for comment by phone and email.