Photo by Seth Combs
Peter Halasz and Kathryn Nova Williams
The last year has been pretty great for Peter Halasz. He had a successful show at the Quint Projects space where nearly every piece was sold, and all of those pieces were painted in his East Village loft space. But on January 20, after four years in the space, property owners HPI Real Estate Services & Investments slid an eviction notice under his door as well as Halasz’s neighbors, artists Kathryn Nova Williams and Richard Kenvin. Halasz says while he had felt antsy when HPI bought the property on the 300 block of 16th Avenue, he didn’t realize that his neighbors, San Diego Space 4 Art, were in negotiations with HPI to take over the artist studios.
“Space 4 Art basically cut a deal with HPI to get us kicked out so they could take over,” says Halasz, who says he had many of his suspicions confirmed by HPI managing partner Summet Parekh. “They [Space 4 Art] had a lease in the building they’re in now. They basically gave it up in exchange for taking our lofts. So they’re going to put an office in here.”
Space 4 Art co-founder Bob Leathers confirmed the move and that they had, indeed, been in negotiations with HPI since September.
“We’ve been negotiating since last summer and the end result is that we have to move out of one of the buildings and we get to keep the other two and expand a little in one of them,” says Leathers. “Then we can stay here another four years. That’s important to us because it’s a transition into a permanent facility we’ve already started building.”
Leathers is referring to a plot of land in Sherman Heights that Space 4 Art is currently developing to become its permanent home. When asked about the lofts they were taking over and the fact that Halasz and company were being evicted, Leathers claimed that he didn’t know anything about who would have to leave.
“We don’t even know yet for sure,” said Leathers. “Honestly, I have a lease that just arrived this morning by email from HP Investors and they hadn’t even identified yet what spaces we’re getting.”
And while Space 4 Art getting to stay in the East Village for another four years could be seen as a good thing, it is coming at the expense of three working artists who have depended on those spaces to make a name for themselves. Kenvin is a highly successful filmmaker and surfboard artisan and has been in his loft space since 2001. He recently sublet a space to Williams, but says he’s not surprised given the continual gentrification of the neighborhood.
“In principle, it totally sucks especially in Peter and Kate’s case. When some sort of arts supporter underhandedly goes and covets some artist’s space and takes it from them… that’s what happened to me before, you know?” says Kenvin. “They are working, legitimate artists doing shows and doing what you’re supposed to do in this arts district only they’re for real, and they’re losing their spaces because of some bullshit.”
“The worst part about it is just the fact that they didn’t warn us and then not saying a word to Peter, just having the property manager slide something under the door,” says Williams, who is considering a move to L.A. “There hasn’t been any kind of camaraderie.”