The Santa Fe Artists Colony is either a unicorn or a dinosaur depending on who you ask. A cultural landmark almost since the day it opened in 1988, SFAC has been a unique rent-restricted live/work art studio complex in exactly the kind of post-industrial architecture the idea of an artists colony conjures. Brick, iron, exposed beams, high ceilings, big windows — and more than that, camaraderie, a home base, a safe harbor for working artists from marketplace vagaries.
SFAC has been under threat from various forces — oppressive city oversight, encroaching real estate development, high demand, etc. — almost since day one as well. Various crisis points have loomed and receded over the years, and so far, it’s survived. But there’s something about the new wolf at the door that seems more serious, more dire, and more imminent. According to recently circulated materials from the SFAC Tenants Association, the property’s new owner, Florida developer Fifteen Group, has announced plans to double the rents as of November 1 of this year — which is basically the same as serving eviction papers.
The Tenants Association has, they state, “made a purchase offer — a right provided by California’s Affordable Housing Preservation Law — to keep rents affordable and preserve this important cultural asset for current and future artists. Unfortunately, Fifteen Group has not engaged in a negotiation regarding the purchase offer.” Needless to say, people are pretty freaked out about this, and not only the residents whose fears are existential — but also the broader community of sympathetic art lovers in the Arts District and beyond.
And this week, SFAC hosts what its denizens fervently hope will not be the last of its legendary Open Studios events, in which all curious and interested parties are welcome and encouraged to come find out more about the place, its history, and its future. It’s the perfect chance to see and support the scores of artists who call SFAC home, and learn more about their plight and potential.
For those moved to take civic action, there’s also a petition on change.org, and there are downloadable materials as well as City Hall contact information and a letter-writing campaign template at the SFAC website.
OPEN STUDIOS: Wed., August 28, 8-10 p.m.; 2415 South Santa Fe Ave., downtown