Drive down 16th, cross the trolley tracks at Commercial, and turn left at the base of Chicano Park, then pull into what used to be a gas station. Five neighborhood kids doing skateboard grinds off the islands where the pumps used to be. The Art Station has a roll-down steel door. Inside the walls are painted black. There’s a stage with lights, a piano. The property is owned by the Calvary Baptist Church and being used by former Ruse Theater people as a community art and music space. Scary Homeless Guys are into their set, the singer shouts into the cheap P.A. At the back is a literature table with a view of the stage: no on 21 stickers, no on 22 stickers, Jordan for mayor buttons, pamphlets about why McDonald’s food is bad for you, free hemp.

In between sets, Brian, the drummer from Firefighters for Christ, shows a ten-year-old kid how to play a few beats on his drum kit. About 35 people watch the bands. Half of the crowd is Peace and Freedom boosters, the rest are friends of the bands or band members.

Robert from the Scary Homeless Guys tells me that the band had their name even before the police shooting of a man with a tree branch. “After I had been homeless for two years, this girl called me a scary homeless guy; that same girl called our drummer a scary homeless guy before I even knew him.”

Juan Pazos, who donated the space for the event, says that the church is following through with its plan to open the King Chavez charter school in September on the land formerly occupied by the Art Station. “We had music and other community events there through July, and then the gas station was torn down. As soon as they establish the new school, part of it will be available for some sort of art center. They really want to work with the community.”

He says the Ruse is trying to solidify another new space. “It’s hard for artists to find a space here [in San Diego]. Once they kill these little places like the Ruse and Ché Café, then you’re talking about really going underground — then you run into more problems.”

—Jimmy Jazz

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