LA Weekly July 2009— Galleries Evicted

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After five years of occupancy, three pivotal downtown art venues on Fifth Street have been given notice to evict after the owner of the former Rosslyn Hotel opted to entertain more profitable development proposals -- which may include luxury apartments sitting on top of a restaurant and bar.

Located at the epicenter of the Downtown L.A. Art Walk, the Pharmaka gallery, L.A. Center for Digital Art and El Nopal Press have been on month-to-month leases for the last two years. Now the owner, the San Diego-based Amerland Group, has issued the galleries with notice, forcing them to relocate by September. Rex Bruce, owner and manager of the L.A. Center for Digital Art has been at the venue for the past five years. He was given the space for a small rent and used his own money to transform the former storefront into a full-fledged gallery.

"It's a shock and I hope to stay downtown to make the most out of all the work we've done to develop the Art Walk here," Bruce says. "We are scrambling right now to get another space happening."

Having also spent tens of thousands of dollars to transform a neighboring storefront, Shane Guffogg, Pharmaka's owner-manager, is similarly stunned by the eviction. He is currently considering an offer from Amerland to be rehoused inside what was once the former hotel's lobby. "It's a shock -- the Fifth Street gallery scene is the heart of the Art Walk," Guffogg says. "If it ceases it will dissipate the Art Walk and inevitably effect traffic and the downtown economy. I hope the lobby idea works, but [we'd be here] simply for the use of the walls. We've haven't decided anything yet."

Written by Craig Stephens

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