In 2010, four artist friends began revitalizing the dilapidated space at 3417 30th St. in North Park. Joseph Huppert, Lee Lavy, Michael James Armstrong and Thomas DeMello set up shop knowing about the building's leaky roof, but the priority was getting the place—a longtime hub for artists, and before that, a dry-ice factory—running again.
After six exhibitions, Ice Gallery is finished. On Monday, CityBeat was forwarded an email, dated Nov. 21 and sent to undisclosed recipients, with the subject line, "ICE Gallery is Dead. You get your money back! :)"
CityBeat's former arts editor, Kinsee Morlan, first reported on the space when it reopened in September 2010. A little more than a year later, she followed up with a blog post on its potential closure after she received an email from Armstrong, whose sculpture "A Study in Transparency" was destroyed when a rainstorm flooded the gallery. In a last-ditch effort to bail out the sinking ship, the group began fundraising through the website unitedstatesartists.org, which is similar to Kickstarter, Armstrong told CityBeat.
Fans and friends rallied, but Armstrong says their fundraising goal wasn't met. So, he reached out to those who donated and asked if they'd still give their money—but to him personally. Most donors agreed, he says.
The $2,800 Armstrong collected scratched the surface of what it would take to fix the roof. However, the money's been sitting in his account for months while he's attempted to contact the property manager to approve the renovations; Armstrong says the manager was impossible to reach. Last week, Ice Gallery was served an eviction notice for Jan. 1, 2013. Armstrong says he wasn't that surprised, because a few weeks ago, some friends told him that architect Jonathan Segal had bought the entire block for a mixed-use development.
CityBeat confirmed with Segal's office that the corner of 30th and Upas streets will be demolished and replaced with a 27-unit apartment complex that includes 8,000 square feet of commercial space. The project is slated for completion in mid-2013. With that news, Armstrong has reached out yet again to donors, apologizing for not following through with plans to fix the roof and promising to return the money.
"Almost all of the donors have told us to keep the money and put it toward our next venture," Armstrong says. The group's new gallery will be located in Bread and Salt, an art-and-design studio that will open in the former Weber Bakery (1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights) sometime next year, he says.
Ice Gallery will hold one more show, on Friday, Dec. 7, featuring local sculptor Tom Driscoll. Check icegallerysd.com later for the time.