This video shows the shutdown of an art studio, Glashaus, here in San Diego. The art studio that artists use to create their work is sacred; without a studio, artists struggle to work on the very tasks they decided to devote their lives to. I asked my artistic friend what she would do if the studio had suddenly closed down. She exaggeratedly answered that she would die, but then clarified that she would simply have to find another studio fast and that, without exaggeration, would feel like her life would be missing a bit of meaning until she was able to work again. As the conversation continued, she brought up the fact that it isn’t even just having a place to work, but having a community and environment where she feels comfortable and inspired.
Glashaus was a building that made 21 studios worth of artists; It was a place they could feel that level of comfortableness. This was a place they had to leave and try to replace in a world that doesn’t have much room or appreciation for artists in the first place. The closure of Glashaus was terrible. Now with those facts out of the way, let’s talk about why this studio was closed down. Glashaus was a warehouse that was built in the 1940s. In 2009, the city of San Diego became aware that this prior warehouse had become this arts venue. Since then, suspicions that the building wasn’t up to code arose, but nothing was done until 2014 when fire officials were sent to inspect the building. The owner spent $45,000 trying to get the building to meet standards. Unfortunately, all the time, effort, and money was wasted; everyone decided this building was a fire trap. The walls were said to not be braced enough in case of an earthquake, that the stairways and ceilings could collapse if there was a fire, and that there weren’t zoning and coastal permits for parking deficiencies. The city tried to work with the arts venue, but decided it’d be impossible.
My question is: Why does it matter if an earthquake or fire could destroy this building when thousands of buildings up to code still got destroyed in Hurricane Harvey or an average of 14,500 high rise building get destroyed in fires annually. Natural disasters still happen and will always leave destruction. And while, yes, we should try to minimize the damage and be smart, how is it fully right for this wonderful and special arts venue to get shut down without a replacement. The people who worked, and lived, there said they always had sprinklers in case of fire, huge doors they could easily run out from, and the artists used water-based paint as opposed to oil-based to even further minimize the risk. The place wasn’t perfect, but it tried to do do the best it could. The government decided it was a crime based off of violations and codes that, even when followed perfectly, could lead to destruction. Glashaus was a place where art and artists thrived; not just a so-called fire-trap.