Future arrival of light rail train forces relocation of two local galleries

By Gary Walker

The Metro Exposition Transit Corridor Light Rail Line, known as the Expo Line, will open the final station of its Phase I in Culver City June 20 and construction is underway for the second leg of the mass-transit line, which will stretch to Santa Monica.

Expo will be the first light rail line to the Westside and while there is a group of homeowners in Cheviot Hills that object to the tracks being constructed near their homes, it has largely been well-received in most corners.

Santa Monica will have three stops on the line, and the first will be at Bergamot Station, a popular collection of art galleries and museums near Stewart Park.

But the arrival of the train will also hasten the relocation of one gallery and the departure of another from Bergamot Station Arts Center, as the need for mass transportation takes its first casualty.

The Robert Berman Gallery, which has been open for almost two decades, will vacate its current location soon but has already found a space several doors east within Bergamot.

Berman said he has received a 90-day notice to leave space C-2, which he also owns and houses Santa Monica Auctions. “It’s really sad because we really like that space,” the gallery owner said.

Track 16 has not been as fortunate as the Berman Gallery. It has not found another location as yet, and will also soon be forced to leave the arts complex.

Owner Tom Patchett could not be reached for comment at Argonaut press time.

Exposition Light Rail Construction Authority Chief Operating Officer Samantha Bricker told The Argonaut that the tenants at Bergamot have known for quite some time that they eventually would soon be forced to find new digs.

“They were given ample notice that this was coming,” Bricker said. “We have been in constant contact with the city of Santa Monica as well as with the tenants at Bergamot.”

Metro officials as well as Santa Monica’s governing body see great potential in having a rail stop near Bergamot. They envision a nighttime destination where rail passengers can disembark at the arts center and enjoy an evening of browsing galleries, eclectic shops, taking a museum tour and dining in caf/s and restaurants.

A proposed development near the light rail line is in the works and there are plans to incorporate the abovementioned amenities, as well as housing and commercial elements, into the Bergamot Transit Village.

“Bergamot was bought with transit dollars,” Bricker pointed out.

Berman said Metro officials say the space where his gallery and auction house are currently located will be leveled in September.

Santa Monica Councilman Kevin McKeown said because the galleries are being forced to relocate does not mean city officials do not want the arts center to be a draw to other patrons of the arts.

“Santa Monica clearly values its cultural heritage and the opportunity to expand upon it, as expressed in our adopted arts master plan ‘CreativeCapital,’” the councilman said.

“Recent public workshops have reached consensus that theBergamot Arts Center must be preserved and nurtured, but unfortunately that doesn’t redirect the train tracks or change the spot Metro needs for a light rail station.”

Berman was philosophical about the light rail line and his gallery’s move to another site.

“I like the idea of people getting off the train at Bergamot from other parts of Los Angeles,” said the gallery owner, who is in favor of light rail. “I think this will be for the greater good of the community.

“There will still be galleries here, but instead of 30 or 40, there will be about 30.”

Bricker said Metro officials realize how important the arts center is to Santa Monica and those who patronize it.

“We know that Bergamot is a jewel for Santa Monica and we wanted to preserve it the best way that we can,” she said. “But we feel that (the light rail line) will be an overall benefit to both Bergamot and Santa Monica.”

Berman is sad to see Track 16 relocate. “They really are an institute of high quality,” he said. “They’re really like a combination of a museum and a gallery.

Venice sculptor and painter Laddie John Dill is also a fan of light rail but is sorry to see Track 16 leave Bergamot as well.

“I have kind of mixed emotions about all of this,” said Dill, who has shown at the gallery. “Track 16 has been of great service to the arts community.”

Like Berman, Dill looks at the coming of the light rail line as inevitable and an event that has the potential to influence the daily lives of a multitude of people. “I think (the Expo Line) is going to be great for Santa Monica and for the Westside,” the sculptor said.

McKeown said another popular local artistic venue could find a new home at Bergamot amid the reshuffling of tenants due to the Expo Line’s arrival.

“One promising option for arts relocation and expansion is our non-aviation land at Santa Monica Airport, where we already have a successful cluster of studios and galleries, and may have more room if airport activities are curtailed after 2015,” the councilman said.

Bricker said Metro anticipates 2,100 daily riders at the Bergamot stop.

Santa Monica Auctions will hold its final live public auction Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10. The June 9 event will begin at 6 p.m. and the Sunday auction will begin at 1 p.m.

Berman thinks once the Expo Line has been running for a few years, people will see how having a Bergamot station was in the broader public’s best interests.

“In a few years when the trains stops here, it will bring a new awareness as to what Bergamot is,” he predicted.

The Expo Line is slated to arrive in Santa Monica in 2016. Its two other stops will be at 17th Street and Colorado Avenue and Fourth Street and Colorado.

A maintenance facility to service the rail cars will be built near the Bergamot stop.