Hugo Heredia Barrera is the kind of artist who sees potential in everything. While the front of his Barrio Logan live / work studio at 2151 Logan Ave. is drab and cordoned off with black bars, once he leads the way through the alley entrance, signs of the building's former status as a beat-up, abandoned space disappear.
Educated in architecture, engineering and welding, the sculptor has transformed the old storefront into a sleek one-bedroom apartment. He built almost everything in his living quarters by hand—the eye-catching metal tables, the contemporary sculptures, even the walls and floors in his bedroom and kitchen.
In the last few months, the artist decided to use his skills to carve out a new gallery in a section of the remaining 5,000 square feet he leases. Originally, he used the entire space to make, photograph and store his own work—high-end contemporary sculptures often made of found metal and glass—but he was inspired to do more when art galleries like La Bodega and Chicano Art Gallery began opening on his block.
"I started seeing how the community was coming up and changing," Heredia Barrera says.
He wanted to be part of that change by filling a niche and showing more experimental, contemporary work. Last Saturday, his new gallery, HB Punto Experimental, opened with a show featuring art by Josué Castro (aka La Tentación) and Jimmi Toro. Heredia Barrera also had live models wearing pieces of his handmade sculptural jewelry in what he describes as more performance art than fashion show.
The new gallery is the latest instance of artistic activity in Barrio Logan. Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of the new Barrio Art Association (BAA), says the 2-month-old organization exists to help "connect the dots of creativity" popping up in the neighborhood. The BAA is financed by an area business owner, Nicholls says, and will help with funding and promotion while assisting artists and arts organizations with existing efforts. He says that one way BAA can help is by getting arts groups organized in order to anticipate and combat the negative effects of gentrification.
"It's almost like you can stand at one end of the neighborhood and see all the condos coming," Nicholls says. "People are nervous that the rising land values will push out the artists... We don't want that to play out here."