I found a bunch of interesting details amid the internet cobwebs when researching my story last week about a deal to preserve arts space in a gentrifying East Village.
The story in a nutshell: Downtown redevelopment planners struck the deal between an arts group — Sushi Contemporary Visual and Performance Art — and a developer wanting to rehab an old dairy building that Carnation and Qualitee historically used. When a new developer came in wanting to build the Icon complex at 10th and J, CCDC held that new developer to the arrangement that granted Sushi lower-than-market rents through 2031. That deal faltered when Sushi closed its doors earlier this year; now it’s unclear what will happen next to the space.
Here’s one nugget I couldn’t fit into the story. The Carnation building (called the ReinCarnation Project once architect Wayne Buss rehabbed it) used to house a colorful set of eyes.
Muralist Mario Torero painted a 15-by-60-foot mural of “The Eyes of Picasso” on the side of a building at Third Avenue and J Street in the late 1970s. In those days, artists and performers could rent cheap space to live and work downtown, and Torero credits that artsy infusion with helping to revitalize the Gaslamp Quarter and lose its “seedy reputation.” But eventually, the artists were priced out. They fled to what is now known as East Village. The building Torero’s mural was on was condemned to make way for the Horton Plaza mall.
So years later, in 1990, Torero painted his trademark “Eyes of Picasso” on the 10th Street façade of the old Carnation building. But Buss didn’t technically own it yet, and the bank managing the building after the previous owner died painted over it.
That wouldn’t stop Torero, one of the key muralists in Barrio Logan’s Chicano Park, who refers to himself as an “artivist.” Here’s more from Torero’s “Eyes of Picasso” website: