A civil war has broken out in Santa Ana’s Artists Village and it all started with a comment posted by Sandra “Pocha” Peña Sarmiento (yes she has a lot of names) over at the OC Weekly, under the pen name “Pocharte.” Here is the now infamous comment:
This is truly a sad development. Matt’s gallery was a much loved gathering place and his murals were beautiful expressions of our local artists’ vision. Now all this has gone the way of the gorgeous Caio Trattoria murals created by dozens of Artists Village tenants in the ’90’s & painted over by Chapter One when they moved in. All these exquisite moments are lost to us now…like tears in rain.
But in lamenting our glorious past, let’s not fall prey to unsubstantiated spin & unfounded hysterics. This can only foment more division & discord.
What isn’t mentioned in this article is that many long-time Santora tenants are staying: Joe Hawa, Atilano, The Art Bar & Firouzeh. Also, some Santora newcomers are being embraced by the new owner: the prolific Jenny Doh of Creciendoh Studio, the dynamic OC Creatives & the talented Tweena’s Tunes.
This OC Weekly article also doesn’t mention Jackosky’s recent meetings with MOLAA & other local art leaders to bring in high-quality art spaces that reflect Santa Ana’s diverse culture or his upcoming collaborations w GCAC and other art groups. These are endeavors far from “Thomas Kincade” grade art fluff.
Also left out was Jackosky’s invitation to have Studio del Sotano tenants relocate to the new Art Colony he’s building near the train station. Housed in an expansive industrial parcel a few blocks from the depot, these spaces would be a better location for working artists as they are more easily open to partnerships w Amtrak & out of county art collecting groups.
This story also neglected to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the Santora’s restoration & repair: fixing the leaky rooftop air conditioners that had been flooding galleries for over a decade, cleaning the historic ironwork, uncovering the original skylights, patching & repainting the entire building, replacing all the broken glass & rotted wood. Those don’t sound like the actions of someone who has no love for the building or what it represents.
So it appears @OC Weekly left quite a bit out when running with their sensationalist one-sided “report” largely based on the comments of one person who has never lived or worked in Santa Ana. Also, not mentioned was that the artists evicted were the ones most active in joining her belligerent & misinformed attacks on the new owner in the press. Cause & Effect folks.
I hope in the next round, a broader range of local artists & arts professionals will be interviewed by the OC Weekly. Also that they would more closely examine the source of propaganda & their motivations before running w it.
As a Santa Ana native and nationally recognized artist, I see many things long-needed for a healthy arts scene finally coming to fruition here: the forming of an Arts Commission, local agency support for the arts & live/work housing, city cooperation on arts grants & arts commerce studies, a commitment to daytime cultural events & markets, new incubator spaces, public art programs & so much more.
I urge anyone wanting to get involved in Santa Ana Arts to move out here (or open a business in SA) instead of spreading more hate and poison from your sour grapes perch in HB, Irvine or Costa Mesa. Get some skin in the game!
Santa Ana’s Art Future is what we make it. If folks can work together without petty tantrums & ugly attacks on local residents, then we can build a true blossoming of the best this City has to offer.
<3 Viva Santa Ana! <3
A lot of folks thought, after reading that comment, that Peña sounded like an apologist for Jack Jakosky, the Newport Beach businessman who bought the Santora and recently whitewashed a mural and started to evict the local artists.
Peña by the way describes herself thusly on her website:
Sandra Peña Sarmiento (aka “Pocha Peña”) is an award-winning filmmaker, artist and writer who served as Festival Director for the CineFestival film festival in Texas and San Diego Latino Film Festival in California.
She has also worked with the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and Spanish-language television networks such as Telemundo, Univision and Fox Latin American. Her video art has exhibited at museums, galleries and film festivals all over the globe and her handmade textile line is enjoying increasing popularity throughout the Southwest.
Matt Southgate, one of the artists who was evicted, had this to say about what Jakosky is doing, in a recent email:
The reason why Jacko would suddenly communicate a desire or intent to bring in “Grad Students” with “aspirations” is so that he can kill two birds with one stone.
First, he gets to publicly demonstrate a continued commitment to “The Arts” as well as his more dominant commercial intent.
More importantly though, he will end up surrounding himself with artists that are clearly “aspirational” in a non-political, non-threatening societal sense. They will be, by and large Institutionalized Sheep that have been trained to work and create within a designated State-sponsored socialized curriculum.
They will not be activists.
They will definitely not be civic-minded, or socially critical outside of having an interest in superficial, intellectually abstract decor.
They will be superficially “Progressive” and superficially “Community Oriented”. They will be Hipsters.
Alicia Rojas, a friend of Matt’s who has been active in the Artists Village for a long time, also weighed in on the skirmish with her own email message:
In my conversation with Jakosky he did mention that one of his biggest complaints was the Halloween Party and how dirty the place was after. I believe he said “my breaking point was the Halloween Party” I hope Adam took this quote down as he was present during my conversation with Jakosky. This was after all a UASA event.
He is also getting rid of other galleries besides the three that are leaving at month-end. He is bringing in “high caliber grad students with aspirations”
There has been no campaign against Victor or Pocha…I believe Victor is confused there. In these instances I believe is called cause and effect to use some of Pocha’s language.
Going against the Plaza SA Community Mural in the way they did and doing Public Relations for Jakosky like in that OCweekly comment is what caused for others to start to realize that maybe Pocha’s vision didn’t align with some of our owns. Not saying that maybe her vision is completely a fraud because its not. Its just a little self serving as to be expected.
The person behind the flyer against Pocha and Victor is friends with Crow. The artist Victor and Pocha decided to blast anonymously because they were “gentrifying” the area by working with Chase. So that was kind of like cause and effect right? In this case they reaped what they sowed. I had nothing to do with that. An Crow was supposedly a “friend” of theirs. At least Matt and I use our email accounts when we need to voice our discontent and not hide behind “don diego” e-mail accounts.
I guess Pocha and Victor only spend a bunch of energy advocating for the destruction of a community mural, and insane amount of energy trying to have an outside artist (Crow) not paint another mural in town because they were working with Chase…whats the difference here in this situation? why didn’t they spend the same amount of energy with this instance with the Santora? Simple. They want what Jakosky is bringing. “National recognized artists that represent the diversity of Santa Ana” we the underground are not good enough, not good enough for murals, not good enough for spaces.
Victor Payan, who is married to Peña, weighed in with his own email message:
I read your email and your posts on New Santa Ana today and wanted to say that your comments are incorrect, and that Sandra has done nothing against you or other artists regarding the Santora.
In the few communications we’ve had with Jakosky, we always spoke of the importance of valuing the resident Santora artists and preserving the artist community there. We aslo spoke in defense of your mural. I don’t know where you are getting any other information, but it is wrong and only foments division and discord.
Your posting that Sandra told you Jakosky was charging MOLAA too much to rent at the Santora is completely untrue. She told you the amount MOLAA was charging was too high to consider at this time, and that we were recommending creating a municipal gallery or bringing a Smithsonian Latino affiliate to the Santora instead.
Concluding that Jakosky’s whitewashing and tearing out walls is due to booths in front of galleries is also incorrect, because Dorta has also put booths in the Santora during ArtWalks, both upstairs and in the main entry way.
As for why you are retracting your support of Sandra for the Arts Commission, you have never communicated any problem to us nor have we done anything against you. We have supported you throughout the Santora issue and continue to work for the betterment of artists and the arts throughout Santa Ana, including donating our time to work with low-income youth.
It is truly sad that you would launch such unfounded attacks without first addressing any issues with Sandra or me. When we last saw you on Friday night, you gave no indication of any problem or discord with us, and we took photos of you at Studio del Sotano to help spread the word for people to support your staying in the Santora. We also suggested approaching Jakosky to see if you could get a lease of your own for the space.
Also, my last communication attempt to you was Saturday night, letting you know someone wanted to buy your painting in UASA’s ArtWalk booth. I don’t know how you or anyone can consider this to be against you.
I also do not understand why you have launched such false attacks against Sandra, only that it is consistent with the defamation campaign you know Alicia has been waging against UASA and Sandra for many months.
It would be troubling to think that you had been manipulated to join Alicia’s campaign of defamation, division and destruction, but your posting false information and retracting of your support for no reason you ever communicated to us indicates this.
Your friendship is important to us, so it is really disturbing to be hit with such unmotivated attacks by you. If you would like to get together to discuss any issues, we would be happy to meet with you.
And then he sent another email, at 4:19 am today:
Sandra is no lobbyist for Jakosky. We do support the Santora artists, and I don’t know what BS anyone is spreading to the contrary. Who are these three people you mention? Are they same three people who approached another Santora tenant to shoot down Sandra at City Council? That artist called them out on their underhanded attack and refused to be a patsy for their plan. How come they never contacted Sandra and asked for her help?
We only think direct communication, respect and presenting a solid plan for staying are better approaches than slamming anyone in the press with sensationalist and defamatory statements. Do you really think calling Jakosky a Nazi Jew, Devil Landlord or Alicia sending out a mass email to blast him to the whole City Council is going to help *any* artists keep their spaces?
Again, we have ALWAYS advocated to keep the Santora resident artists in the building. To lie and say otherwise and then use it for political purposes IS defamation.
Also doesn’t explain why you didn’t discuss your concerns with Sandra before blasting her publicly.
Peña did not join in the email fray but she did send me the following Facebook messages, on Sunday:
- I’ve also not been appointed to any commission. So it’s strange you would say that. Where have you been getting your info? …perhaps from a self-proclaimed bi-polar artist in HB? Well I have had NO contact w this sick individual, much less texted her in over 8-months. Looks like you just got chumped! Didn’t you read my vision for Santa Ana Arts??
- Just so yu know, Alicia is being called out on private pages for her obvious vendetta. Matt is our friend. A is seeking to drive a wedge between us and her former lover (Southgate)…
- I love Mateo & we all tried to campaign for him to stay, but his association with the divisive Alicia sealed his fate. All of us (UASA, OSA, etc) could see where this destructive relationship was headed, but we couldn’t help him if he didnt want to help himself. Matt has alienated himself from many groups that valued him. It’s a pity because he is a gifted fine artist.
- Alicia attempts to destroy lives, reputations, careers…we’ve all seen it thru AVASA, OSA & UASA… she’s a very fragile & troubled individual. Also a veritable powder keg of volatile emotion. Not a great mix for vulnerable friends or fragile cities. May The Lord watch over us & comfort Matt in his time of need.
Where is this mess headed? Beats me. But I do think that Jakosky is not done cleaning house. And I don’t think that the Santa Ana Arts Commission, which is forming, is going to be able to handle any of this drama. When you factor in the vicious killing of Kim Pham while she waited to get into the hipster bar The Crosby all of this points to continuing dysfunction in the Artists Village. Will pettiness, jealousy and crime bring down DTSA? We will find out soon enough.