For nearly a decade, The Glashaus in Barrio Logan operated in a legal gray area as an arts venue.
But this month, city officials shut the venue down due to fire and safety concerns and code compliance issues. Now, the artists who rent studios in the space say they’re screwed. They were given 30 days to move out, and they’re struggling to find a place to go.
“All we’ve done is pay our rent on time for years,” said Glashaus studio artist Spenser Little. “This has been a real slap in the face to everyone here.”
All of the studios and the gallery will be completely demolished in early September. The city says they should have never been there in the first place.
In 2009, the building at 1815 Main St. opened as an arts venue. It grew to house 21 studios and a public gallery and event space. But none of the construction that master leaseholder Matt Devine had done inside the warehouse space was legal.
Last week, the city attorney’s office filed a complaint against Devine, an artist who had his own studio at Glashaus before he moved to Northern California, and Mitchell Investments, the investment firm that owns the building and has offices in front of the arts venue.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
"There's no place for us to go."
Yeah, too bad it's not possible to create art in National City, Lakeside, La Mesa, Santee, Chula Vista...
As an artist in San Diego, I know it's difficult to find affordable studio space. But I also know there's a need to protect not only artists but other tenants in the buildings artists use as well as adjacent buildings from threats of fire. Art is not just about painting. Many art forms use heat - fire and flame - for their creation. Some artists also choose to flaunt regulations and set up illegal housekeeping in spaces intended only for work space. Inexpensive studio spaces are never in my experience "smoke-free" and also not equipped with sprinklers or even smoke detectors.
I lived in a building like this - an old warehouse - in another state for a couple of months when I sublet an artist's apartment. I had no idea the "apartment" that joined her studio was not legal until the moment when a fireman pounded on my door at 3:00 a.m. to let me know there was a fire in another "studio" in the building. I vacated at the end of the week.
There's a fine line between needing space to create and the possibility of tragedy. If any wealthy San Diego patrons want to support art in our city, perhaps they can pony up funds to provide safe and reasonable studio space. What a wonder and joy that would be.