La Bodega Finds New Home After Being Pushed Out by Rent Hike
By Mario A. Cortez
After much uncertainty about its future, La Bodega Gallery in Barrio Logan will live on in the neighborhood.
Through a social media post, the gallery shared it would set up inside a former heavy machinery workshop on the corner of National and Sicard, known as The National 92113.
The Kensington-based firm Ten Seventy Architecture will help design the new floor plan, which is slated to include a gallery space and artist studios.
In the meantime between the announcement and project completion, La Bodega will be hosting some pop-up art exhibits and fundraisers to cover costs related to permitting and construction. A GoFundMe page has also been set up for community members to donate.
Founded six years ago by artists Soni Chavez-Lopez and Chris Zertuche inside the Bank of Italy building on the corner of Logan and Sampson, La Bodega was among the first establishments to promote the arts in the predominantly Mexican-American community of Barrio Logan. Programming included regular open exhibits displaying the work of artists from San Diego and around the world. Other events hosted at La Bodega included open mic poetry nights and musical events.
Many cite the gallery as the catalyst for the revival of Logan Avenue from a stretch with vacant commercial spaces into a thriving arts corridor.
La Bodega first announced it was closing its doors at the end of its lease on December 31. Management was unable to strike a new lease deal with property owner Nick Inzunza, a former mayor of National City, who demanded a much higher rate which could not be met. The initial closing announcement shook Barrio Logan’s artist community, which is currently dealing with the difficulties of gentrification along with neighborhood residents.
Earlier in 2019, the also prominent Chicano Art Gallery was also forced to shut down after management doubled rent prices for its respective space, just a block away from La Bodega’s original location.
“This is an ugly reminder of Barrio Logan’s current unaffordable reality for those wanting to have a space to present art and culture,” La Bodega’s owners wrote in a Facebook post on December 3. “It’s a sad reality that hurts. We put our life into making La Bodega what it is today and we are completely heartbroken that we have to vacate that historic building.”
Barrio Logan artists and community members quickly rallied behind the gallery once the closing was announced, creating a Gofundme page and expressing their support. At its final exhibit — a Star Wars-themed show coincidentally dubbed “The Last Saga” — the gallery floor was packed wall-to-wall with visitors and supporters.
Weeks later, on Christmas morning, La Bodega’s owners shared a picture of a key to the new address, teasing a new location had been found.
“It warms our heart to know that our contributions to the barrio arts scene are loved by countless people from our community and beyond,” the accompanying post partially read.