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La Bodega Art Gallery Closing Amid Ongoing Concerns Over Gentrification In Barrio Logan

After six years in the neighborhood, the gallery will host its final art show Saturday.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The art gallery that exemplifies the new growth and vitality in Barrio Logan is closing lava. Degas gallery on Logan Avenue is part of what has become a thriving arts district. When lava Degas opened six years ago, many storefronts in the neighborhood were empty. Now lava Degas is apparently a victim of its own success as gentrification has brought with it, rising rents and more competition for space. Joining me are sone Lopez Chavez who runs LA bodega gallery with her husband and Sony. Welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having us. And Mary June is a San Diego based painter, muralist and printmaker who also works in Barrio Logan. In fact right across the street from a LA bodega. And Mary, welcome. Thank you. Now Sony, what have the last few days been like since you decided you could no longer stay in this space? So it's been quite an emotional roller coaster since we announced it.

Speaker 1: 01:01 We've had so many people that have stopped in to to share how they feel, share their anger, their frustration. We've had a lot of people that are contacting us, um, wanting to support and wanting to help. What can you tell us about what led you and your husband to decide to close LA bodega? So our lease was up, um, and the owner decided to raise the rent and it's to an amount that we can't afford. Um, actually my husband, the manager was forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement before the negotiations even began. So we can't say the number, but I can tell you it's ridiculous. We reached out to the owner of the building, uh, former national city mayor Nick in zones. Uh, he says he never gave notice to increase wrench, but you maintain that as a big rent increase that's forcing you out.

Speaker 1: 01:52 So what's that disparity about, do you think? Well, I mean, why and force us to sign a nondisclosure. What's, what's the point of that? We're not staying if we were staying, why doesn't he come and say, why are you leaving? What's the confusion here? Let's clear things up. Obviously he has seen the news. He's heard the radio. I mean, we're leaving. He's, he raised the rent and we can't afford it. [inaudible] talk to us, Sony, about what you are able to accomplish at lava Degas. Oh, it's been, it's been truly amazing. Um, when we first went in there six years ago, there was no, no other active business on the block on Logan Avenue. And so, um, we took quite a gamble. Uh, we were fearful that we wouldn't be successful because there were, there was nothing else there aside from Chicano park, which is actually what motivated us to, to go to that area and start the business there.

Speaker 1: 02:48 And, um, we started to curate art shows and little by little, a lot of people started to come and they really loved the area and a lot of our friends then started to open up their own little businesses on the same block. And before we knew it, there were so many artists that were living there and had studios there and it'd be, became an art community. It just flourished in such a short amount of time. Um, it's been beautiful to see marriage you and tell us what LA bodega means to you and other artists in the area. Well, one thing love Degas, when they opened up, they were kind of, they were the one of the only galleries that were allowing, you know, people of whether you were an unknown artist or someone that had been making money out of our, like we were coming from different classes.

Speaker 1: 03:40 So I, and different ethnicities also. So I mean I had met them when I was 24, now being 30. It was such like a vital time in my life and figuring out who I was going to be with art and for a Filipino girl coming from paradise Hills, that wasn't necessarily the one thing that you heard was you didn't, you never heard I want to be an artist when I'm like older, like, and it wasn't necessarily San Diego was still kind of coming with this idea, like where does art belong here? So finding a place like LA bodega and Barrio Logan in general, like that was, that became the safe space for me. That's why I have an emotional attachment to it being 24 and being 30 also pushed out. Let me ask you both, because you're creative thinkers, this happens a lot in different places. Do you think anything can be done to create a thriving art scene in a place and bring a place up from where it was without that leading to people getting priced out?

Speaker 1: 04:41 Um, me personally, I, I am a strong believer of like you can introduce new things and still support what was, what is already there. Whether or not that is when you start your business or when you start living there is also like contributing like, like where are you, where are you gonna eat, eat around the areas that you are actually living in, eat. Like go and support the artists that are there. Like if you want to buy a certain merchant, go to the local areas that you're living in that you're choosing to be a part of that is new and also old at the same time. So I feel like, yes, we, you know, as artists, like we're coming into a spot that is much older and we are bringing in new, but a lot of us dedicate a lot of our time in allowing people to see that this is now a new and safe place, but also enriching the culture that had been there and dedicating like, like people like donate to each other.

Speaker 1: 05:33 We are helping our community right now with LA bodega, like doting as much as we can to keep them in this, in the area. And so that bio Logan is not the same as what we knew of it in the 90s so it's, it could still be new and also thrive on it's history. So, and Sony I agree. I agree with what she said. Um, I think as long as the community supports one another, the, the small businesses support one another. No, Sony, you need to get out of the building by January 1st correct. And your last show is this Saturday. Tell us about it. What can the public expect? So the last show is this Saturday from five to 10. It's free. Open to all ages. Um, cosplay, play encouraged. Um, it's a star Wars themed art show and ironically it's called the last saga. Um, we will be accepting donations at the door.

Speaker 1: 06:31 Any amount helps. And this was a home for a lot of people for six years. So we would love to see you come, say bye to the space, come cry, come laugh. Whatever you need to do. Do you plan to reopen somewhere else? That's, that's, that's the hope. We're looking, we're out there physically looking at different locations. We've actually had offers from people all over San Diego offering us their spaces. Um, San, I mean Chula Vista, national city, Sonny, CTOs, a lady called yesterday from LA Jolla. There's a need for spaces like ours out there. There is, um, we need an art community all over San Diego, not just our place. Everywhere. We need places to be able to express ourselves. Places where the community can come in and feel welcomed and we just need places. Like these are so crucial. But our hope is to stay in Barrio Logan. We are looking and praying that we'll find something soon. I know this has been difficult, but I'm so glad you came in to talk with us. I've been speaking with Sony Lopez Chavez who runs the LA bodega gallery and Mary June. She's a San Diego based painter in Barrio Logan. Thank you both so much. Thank you.

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.