Earlier this week, co-founders Alexa Treviño and Ivan Lopez of Artillery AG on Mission Street were set to close up permanently.
But in the span of 24 hours and through a key reversal, they are instead forging ahead – raising thousands of dollars to keep their lease and recapture the essence of why they created Artillery 11 years ago.
Photographer Treviño and dual painter/sculptor Lopez opened their creative studio and art gallery in 2009 as a multi-purpose space for artists to create, display, and sell their work and the work of other artists.
In their early years, they also hosted music events, open mic nights, and other live shows, “anything that would sustain the rent,” said Treviño.
While brainstorming positive ways to generate revenue a couple of years ago, a connection of Lopez’ and Treviño’s from the local art world, Matt Mauger, joined the team. Together with Mauger, they launched a ceramics program – four classes for $200. The program helped cover the monthly base rent of $3,900. Utilities, security and other incidentals add another $700 a month.
In April 2019 when their lease was up for renewal, they added Mauger, who at that point had assumed sole ownership of the ceramics program.
With the ceramics program taking up the bulk of the space, Mauger paid the total monthly rent with the program revenue, while Lopez and Treviño made up their smaller share of the rent for the front of the store through sweat equity/labor.
Despite mounting tension and occasional speedbumps between the trio, the arrangement somewhat worked. Then, COVID-19 hit.
The rent went unpaid in April, May and June. By the time their landlord reached out to them this month, Lopez and Treviño had been discussing how Artillery would need to adapt with the changing world.
“The whole model of the whole space needs to change,” said Treviño. “Not only for COVID,” she continued, “but especially businesses of color, like me and Ivan, what are we going to be doing for our Black community too?”
“What’s our social contribution?” Lopez asked. “Business, as usual, can’t just continue.” The two wanted to evolve their business once more.
The two met with Mauger at Artillery to discuss their options on June 15. The initial conversation, hampered by their faltering business partnership, led them to decide to close permanently rather than try to innovate.
After making their decision, Treviño posted a goodbye message on her Instagram.
“After, not even 20 minutes, my phone was blowing up,” she said.
And around the same time, Mauger reached out to Lopez and asked how to fix the situation. Ultimately, he agreed to pay his share of the back rent and is removing his name from the lease.
“I hope that they are fruitful,” Mauger said, referring to Lopez and Treviño.
Now, a mere few days later, the space is back in the hands of the two who created it, also roughly back where they started.
“We’re starting from zero, we have no members right now,” said Treviño. “We are literally needing to build up, and ask the community through GoFundMe to help secure the space.”
They needed enough money – $15,000 – to pay their share of the back rent from the previous months, utilities, and to cover the month of July. They launched a GoFundMe, and in the past few days raised more than $16,000.
The support from the community has boosted their spirits, and their motivation. “I knew that this place was magical and important,” said Treviño. “It’s just insane, like how many people have been calling us and being like, ‘Yo, how can we support, how can we support.’”
But to be able to pay for some renovations–revamping to be COVID safe–and other needs to not only survive, but thrive, they’re hoping to raise more.
“We want to do art that’s intentional,” Lopez said, adding that some ideas include a scholarship for members of the BIPOC community for the ceramics program, which they will start up again on their own, and opening their gallery walls for BIPOC artists. “I want to make the space accessible for people,” said Treviño.
“I just want people to know that we’re thankful for their support, and that we want to do better,” she said. “We’re not trying to stay stagnant.”
Here is a video from 2o17 when Artillery was going through a change.
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