Latino gallery owner and artist Moises Camacho has found a new home to display his collection of Latino artwork, and this time the rent is free.
Camacho had been forced to close his MC Gallery & Studio at the Santora Arts Building in downtown Santa Ana because he could no longer pay the rent.
The gallery's closure in January came as a shock to the wider arts community, which considered the gallery an important Latino arts destination.
When acclaimed Mexican composer Arturo Marquez saw the gallery's exposed brick walls, the bronze nudes of Mexican women, the dark murals and the Chicano themes of Camacho's gallery, he saw his motherland.
"I feel like I am at home here," Marquez said.
Downtown property owner Arturo Lomeli read Voice of OC's article about the gallery closure and decided to do something about it. “I told him [Camacho] I'll take care of everything,” Lomeli said. “You just do something that is worth the effort.”
Lomeli, who is a dentist, gave Camacho a space on the first floor of his building near the corner of Sycamore and Fourth streets.
He's giving Camacho the space free of charge, he said, because he believes it's important for the community to cultivate the arts. And he worries, like many others, that the artists who created downtown Santa Ana's Artists Village are now being priced out of the area.
Lomeli is a harsh critic of Santa Ana city government and Downtown Inc., the booster organization funded by downtown property owners. He and other critics of Downtown Inc. say it is spending its marketing and promotions money mostly on the growing restaurant scene while largely ignoring the artists.
“These guys [artists] were attracted to here because they were told there was an interest in art. Then they get here and they get no help,” Lomeli said.
And he issued a challenge to Santora owner Michael Harrah and city officials.
“We're doing our part. Let's have the other guys pitch in — Mr. Harrah and the city,” Lomeli said.
Recently, artist Alicia Rojas discovered an agreement that required Harrah to dedicate 80 percent of the leasable space in the building to the arts. That agreement expired last October, fueling the growing anxiety among artists that they don't have a future in the area.
The OC Weekly reported a rumor is circulating among the artists that Harrah is planning to sell the Santora in order to finance construction of a 37-story office building near downtown known as One Broadway Plaza. Harrah, however, has denied that's the case.