Reed Weimer talks new work, gallery drama and the birth of Navajo Street Art District
How did you start acquiring buildings on that block in the first place?
The landlord was going to evict us, and we said, "Ha! You'll never get anyone else to rent this dump. We're going to move out!" That's how we began our negotiations. It took a year -- going back and forth from screaming at each other on the phone to them offering me a job as the building's manager, it just swung back and forth.
"Gather," Reed Weimer.
What had happened was, the lady who owned it passed away, and her sons inherited it. Neither of them lived in town, and neither were into owning it. It was a really run- down building in an increasingly bad part of town. They didn't want to fly in to fix sinks. They had an ancient handyman guy from the neighborhood, but he needed to retire. That helped us with our negotiations.
The big crash in real estate helped us, tool we were interested in buying it because we were already occupying it. We thought it was a part of town that nobody would ever care about and we could just do what we wanted and no one would bother us. Pirate was really a "destination" kind of place in the early days. People went to Pirate planning to stay until the keg was empty.
That neighborhood has really changed in the last three decades.
It's a curse and a blessing, you know? As a property owner, you are making a really longterm investment. There are so many aspects completely beyond your control, so when it improves, the building you own becomes worth more money, instead of the opposite. But then our costs go up, then we have to raise the rent, then people hate the landlord even more. Eventually, there's going to be an endgame.
We had some conflicts of interest after we bought the Pirate building -- we naively thought the Pirates would be grateful. Like, "Hey, we've kept the clubhouse!" But a number of them were suspicious and peevish about it. They thought we might raise their rent and throw them out. I was completely blindsided by it.
I stayed in (the co-op) for a while -- I think Chandler had already dropped out. It just got worse and worse -- like, "You're here all the time, so why don't you do all the work?" We were living upstairs at that point, so we were always taking out the trash, cleaning up, letting in everyone in when they forgot their key and sitting in the gallery when someone didn't show up. It was overwhelming.
We had to develop a thicker skin about it because, well, nobody likes their landlord.
It sounds like a very emotional business.
We had to give up some stuff. You had to get used to the idea that you might walk up to a group of fellow artists and they would stop talking and just look at you -- someone might think, "Hey, there's Reed!" but someone else is thinking, "Oh, it's the landlord." You give up a certain level of intimacy in friendships because they become suspicious -- it's more complicated that you imagine.
But we still have a lot of great friends who appreciate it. Our plan is just to provide the space for everyone to do what they needed to do, for as long as we can. We provided the locations, but the community developed itself. It fits in with the whole D.I.Y. thing -- you can still be in a co-op and still be in business for yourself.
Now (this block) has even developed a name -- Navajo Street Arts District. It keeps growing up, but the old crazy days are gone.
Selected Reedings: The Work of Reed Weimer runs through September 1 at Z Art Dept, 1136 Speer Boulevard, with an opening reception from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. this Friday, July 20. For more information on Weimer's show and the gallery, visit Z Art Dept.'s website.