Chuck Feesago has lived at Santa Fe Art Colony for a decade.
“I wanted to be here because of the fact that they were practicing artists,” Feesago said. “That lent itself to a certain kind of energy that you don’t get in another place that doesn’t have this concentration.”
When the colony was established, units were rented only to people who could prove their artistic bona fides.
“They had a portfolio review to get in here,” Arnoff recalled. “They had to see your art to know you were serious. The managers until recently have always been artists.”
According the several longtime tenants, the new owners have disregarded the conditional use permit limiting tenancy to artists, renting spaces instead to non-artists and eroding the community bonds for which the colony was known. Fifteen Group did not respond to requests for comment.
The colony held annual open studios. Creatives from other industries, especially film, frequently visited to get ideas for projects.
“We serve not just a cultural function, but the arts are huge in the economy,” said Sylvia Tidwell, head of the Santa Fe Art Colony Tenants Assn., who said her rent had been $1,426 but is rising to $4,493 effective Friday. “The fine artists working in the studio at the grassroots level, we generate ideas that inform all the other creative industries.”
Last year artist-residents boycotted a Fifteen Group-organized open studios event, which they saw as an attempt to use their community as a real estate selling point: Come see the kind of cool studios that eventually could be yours.
“That felt really awful,” said Gina Han, who was part of the colony for more than two decades. “Everyone’s coming to see your space, not coming to see your art. They would say, ‘I like this wall, I like this bathroom.’”
On July 2 the tenants association announced that the Los Angeles Conservancy had nominated the Santa Fe Art Colony for the city’s Historic-Cultural Monument designation, granting it interim protection
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