It’s a story many in the art world have heard before: a beloved community art spot is forced to close its doors for good after its landlords raise rents and the newfound interest in a hip area displaces neighbors and neighborhood places alike. It’s the fate awaiting La Bodega Gallery in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood, a predominantly Latinx area under threat of gentrification. The community art space faces eviction at the end of December.
When La Bodega Gallery opened on Logan Avenue six years ago, the pressure of gentrification wasn’t yet as intense as it is today. Founded by Soni López-Chávez and Chris Zertuche, the mission of La Bodega Gallery was to create “a welcoming space for both artists and art supporters,” according to its website. It brought thousands of visitors to the neighborhood over the years.
“We’ve created a platform for these artists to be able to have a home and a place to express themselves,” said López-Chávez in an interview Friday. “We’ve made so many connections with artists here in San Diego and artists all around the world. To have this close is going to be bad.”
“Not only have we managed to accomplish so much in the San Diego art scene, but we have done so all while bringing an empty and abandoned warehouse in Logan back to life, transforming it into an interactive and creative space for everyone to enjoy in the process,” López-Chávez said on La Bodega Gallery’s site. According to a Change.org petition set up to save the gallery, La Bodega helped renew the shopping district around it, setting the stage for other boutiques and businesses to reach the many visitors brought to the area by the art gallery.
Since December 3, when the La Bodega Gallery announced it would be closing its doors at the end of the month, supporters have shared their memories of the space and are spreading the word of its potential demise in the hopes of reversing it. López-Chávez told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she and her husband Zertuche agreed that their limit would be double their current rent, which was over $4,000 before the increase, in order to keep the space. The landlord gave them a figure well over their limit, and Zertuche had to tell López-Chávez the bad news. “He just looked like all of his motivation and inspiration was completely drained and he said to me, ‘we can’t stay, we have to go,’” she said. The owner of the property, former National City Mayor Nick Inzunza, declined to speak with the San Diego Union-Tribune about the situation.
La Bodega Gallery is not the first community art space forced out by rising rents on Logan Ave. With the closing of the Chicano Art Gallery earlier this year, the loss of yet another gallery is a great concern for neighbors, patrons, and artists alike. A Change.org petition began in an effort to appeal to the gallery’s landlord to let the art gallery stay in its current home.
López-Chávez said that she and her husband have been overwhelmed with the outreach and support of the local art community, but she said they’re no longer looking to stay with their current landlord. “We are looking for another space,” she told Hyperallergic. “We’ve decided that no matter what happens, we’re going to go ahead and leave the space regardless of if anything were to change. We’re deciding to leave because we no longer want to support a landlord that doesn’t care about the art community.” The couple intends on relocating the gallery in Barrio Logan.
So, after over 300 shows over its six-year-run, La Bodega Gallery will host its final event at its current location — a Star Wars-themed show bittersweetly titled The Last Saga — on December 14.