The Expanding Art Scene of Santa Ana

Artwork by Colt Bowden

Since the 1980s, Santa Ana has been the art destination for Orange County, attracting artists, art lovers and art professionals to the area. Just adjacent to the bustling, predominantly Latino 4th Street area, the Artists Village was somewhat isolated from the rest of the city. For a long time, downtown Santa Ana was thought to one of the most dangerous cities in the state of California. With high crime and homicide rates, the Artists Village in the heart of the city was a secluded destination for art-tourists. In the past five-to-ten years, the Village has been flooded with bars, restaurants and boutiques, the art has taken a bit of a backseat, which has led to entrepreneurs and artists to expand the "art destination" of Santa Ana to reach beyond the limits of the historic Artists Village, and into The East End.

The Santiago Art District is a burgeoning area in the east end of Santa Ana that holds a handful of small independent galleries showing a wide range of contemporary art and artists. Though these galleries are built-in to the Santiago Lofts, there are some talented artists that come through these spaces. This particular area of Santa Ana hosts their own art walk on the 2nd Saturday of each month, giving Santa Ana visitors an alternative night to check out worthwhile art, without the business of the first Saturday art walk in the Artists Village. Some great spaces in this area include F+ Gallery and Curbside Gallery.

Jack Jakosky recently opened the Logan Creative Center, near the train station and the Santiago Arts District, and turned a spiral staircase production facility into a multi-use art center with a paint booth, major wood, metal and glass equipment, a small retail space, and over a dozen different artists' studios. Jakosky has been able to attract some well respected artists and some up-and-comers to make the Logan Creative Center a well-rounded center for contemporary artists to make work and have a community and network. The Logan Creative Center currently houses world famous sculptor Elizabeth Turk, well known metal sculptor Bret Brice, amongst many others. Jakosky hopes to get visitors to see that Santa Ana has more to offer than just the Artists Village.

Curbside Gallery

F+ Gallery

David M. Cook, Dana Jazayeri, Steven Daily, Dan Quintana, Alex Garcia in front of MCA

Marcas Contemporary Art (MCA) is another new art space in the east end of Santa Ana that is trying to broaden the art in this colorful community. Co-owners Dana Jazayeri and Ale Astoquilca own Orange County's only independent art and design book store As-Issued as well as a boutique called Lobby in the famed anti-mall, The Lab in Costa Mesa. As-Issued is well known for their great selection of art-minded books and zines, and they also have small contemporary art exhibitions in the space. As-Issued is about the size of a large closet, making Jazayeri keen on branching out and find another space to expand and improve their art programming for quite some time now. A few months ago, Jazayeri threw a pop-up graffiti art show in an open warehouse in Santa Ana and the reception and attendance was far beyond they anticipated. This gave Jazayeri the confidence and motivation to finally get a new space in the Santa Ana area dedicated to great artwork permanently. Jazayeri and Astoquilca teamed up with well known Los Angeles pop surrealist painter Steven Daily to open Marcas Contemporary Art.

The name, Marcas Contemporary Art, is taken from the tradition of Jazayeri's
Astoquila has faith that they will be able to not only offer art to visitors and collectors that isn't available anywhere else in OC, but that with their combined experience and points-of-view, the three owners are able to really hone in and make MCA the art space Santa Ana needs. "DJ has been working with artists for over ten years, and Steven has worked with artists for a lot longer in a different capacity," she says. "I think it's going to be good. It's kind of new, and different from what you're used to so and I think it'll be good for this area."

Marcas Gallery Artist Showcase June 21st 2014 from Marcas Gallery on Vimeo.

"With As-Issued -- it's just a small little book store," Jazayeri says. "The old gallery I had, Subject Matter, was like 2200 square feet. So, it's hard to implement larger ideas in the small space, and we've been doing pop-ups here and there, but we just felt the need to move forward and bring something larger to Santa Ana. I like Santa Ana; I like locations with a lot of character. In Orange County, it's kind of hard to find that."

"We want to help this area become more of a destination," Astoquilca says. "I think it is fun to help build a community like that too. You know, there are so many places that have that, so with all of 4th Street changing the way it is, I think it's a great thing. You have boutiques, food, and a lot of different things you can do -- having the gallery here is great, it adds another component to giving people something to do here, and inspire and invigorate their lives through art."

As-Issued in Costa Mesa

As-Issued in Costa Mesa, owned by Jazayeri and Astoquilca

Jazayeri's first art gallery, Subject Matter.

Subject Matter, circa 2003

MCA will officially open July 5, 2014 with a large group show, "Corrective Course." Jazayeri says that they plan on having a plethora of different kinds of programming, including tutorials, seminars, solo shows, group exhibits, fundraisers and more. "For the inaugural show, we picked artists in each genre, and we picked artists that could represent it the best -- not everyone we were hoping for was able to participate. But we want to have fun with it. We have over 40 artists," Jazayeri says.

Tom Garner live painting at MCA

Artwork by Gustavo Rimada

Of the many artists that will be contributing to "Corrective Course," local Orange County low brow artist Gustavo Rimada is included. Rimada will be in great company, surrounded by the likes of Alex Garcia, Dan Quintana, Nikko Hurtado, Adrian Dominic, Karen Hsiao, Shawn Barber, Olivia, Travis Louie, Cryptik, Amir H. Fallah, Sylvia Ji and many more.

Rimada, originally from Mexico, grew up in Indio, but now lives in Orange County and works out of Goodfellas Tattoo Studio. His background working in a tattoo shop combined with his art education from The Art Institute in Santa Monica, made for an interesting mix of inspiration for his art practice. His artworks often all upon the traditions of tattoo art, but combined with a clear influence of his Mexican heritage as well. Lots of bones, flowers, haunting eyes and open chest cavities. Rimada plays with religious and cultural symbolism and iconic imagery to create his own brand of new brow art. All of his work, though aspects of his work contain images that may seem familiar, lives in a contemporary realm, somewhere between sub-cultures and traditional fine art.

Gustavo Rimada in front of his work (photo courtesy of CAVE Gallery in Venice)

Colt Bowden painting

Another Orange County-based artist MCA is excited about featuring is Colt Bowden. Based out of Brea, Bowden is a sign-painter, typographic street artist, whose work is often about and around skate and surf art and life. His work often involves vintage lettering, linocuts, machinery and bearded gentlemen. Jazayeri says that they will be doing some interesting new public art with Colt, and try to involve and invigorate the area with great custom art.

With a slew of new art centers, spaces and galleries opening up throughout Santa Ana, the notion of the Artists Village is slowly expanding to the entire downtown area as a whole. Santa Ana is slowly becoming the go-to art hub for the county, and may be able to compete more seriously with L.A.'s art scenes in the not-so-distant future.

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Top Image: Artwork by Colt Bowden

About the Author

Evan is the Editor in Chief of Inland Empire Weekly, Culture Magazine, and Rogue Art Research & Writing (RARW).
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