Claremont is surprisingly hidden from the world. It doesn’t offer much near freeway exits and the charming downtown is a little tucked away. So I guess it’s no surprise that a lot of people miss this bad ass gem. However there are stirrings in the wind that tell me there are changes coming.
The Claremont Art Walk has been fighting for its life. Run by volunteers this monthly event has had a difficult time getting off the ground. Which is too bad since Claremont has a lot to offer, but part of the problem is a perceived highbrow, snooty, college town atmosphere where million dollar homes would make even my rich OC neighbors jealous of the Jone’s. It’s a very, very small place that has all the problems of small town politics. Add to the equation a rowdy next door neighbor with dirt under the finger nails, Pomona, which had it’s own downtown art scene that burgeoned for more than a decade, but is now fizzling out. Now Claremont is finding itself in a place that it is not really accustomed to bringing in a scruffier crowd.
When you cross under the freeway the tension between the two sides is palatable. Pomona’s grimy brick buildings and Mid Century blue collar homes paired against the pristine, manicured landscaping along side the adobe of Claremont and it’s no mystery. I never really heard anyone talk about the other side when you are facing one side of the freeway or the other. However, the energy was there. Yet now with the changes taking place we are seeing some groups shifting over to Claremont. And to Upland which is another nearby town of local flavor.
Claremont has always had an art scene, but one very different from the Pomona breed. It’s traditionally been the kind of wine drinking, flowing clothes wearing, slightly grayed type of artist that represents a class of well heeled bohemian that I’m accustomed to in places like Santa Fe, Sedona, or Laguna Beach. Now, there is a fresher look moving in. A younger, purple haired, with more slender physique fitting clothes artisan moving in.
It sounds like Pomona has chased out the artists. They have done their job and raised the rent for developers to point to buyers and say, “Look here! Artists are cool and you want to be cool so buy my property and move in.” I don’t know if gentrification is winning in Pomona, but it seems clear that the once tight knit community of artists there has broken up due to what Pomona doesn’t offer anymore.
Bunny Gunner, an art studio that held turf on Pomona’s 2nd Street down the road from the Glass House, has now moved to greener pastures of Bonita in the Claremont Village. A few others have joined in the fray like Mirrored Society which is celebrating its three month anniversary above a fairy land trinket store (*yawn*) separated by oaky white railing. Not the traditional dark stain we see in hipstery places, but give it time.
So when a friend of mine contacted me and asked me if I could do an art show in Claremont I said sure. Fuck it. Not knowing about the shifting climate in the region of my former stomping ground, it sounded like a good time because I like Claremont anyway, but now, looking from the outside in, it looks like Claremont offers an opportunity for artists that seem to be graduating because the well ran dry.
In my base of operations, Tustin, we have a similar thing going. Probably not as highly priced, but it’s people are older, the streets are clean, and we are bordered by a rough around the edges city. Sandwiched between more expensive property and grittier Santa Ana, Tustin is a relative oasis in the property wars we are struggling to live through. Tustin is primed to take overflow from places like Orange whose rents have been escalating astronomically and pushing out businesses. Claremont is not the cheapest place to rent, but like Tustin it does offers a pocket in a sea of struggling businesses where people can gain a foothold.
I like Claremont. If I can play a role in opening its bounty to the world around its borders and maybe learn something in the process, I’ll pitch in. It begins by drawing me back in with the Art Walk, May 7. For artists like me this is opportunity knocking. A new hole in the market that I can slip into.
I don’t know if the Art Walk is good or bad. Worth it or not. But in my mind change is always good. And besides, there’s really good food and even better drinks. After your hearty meal think about how you are breaking ground on a new shift in cultural boundaries. Participating in the flux of people trying to make it work. The artist’s struggle.
And maybe, if you didn’t eat and drink too much, come by and see me the first Saturday of May, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the Packing House on First Street. Technically I’m still filling out the paperwork for this show, but something tells me I’ll be there rain or shine. And with some new art to boot.