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Mural Manners: Work proceeds on a new mural for Gallery Anno Domini.

SoFA Grows a Gallery

Anno Domini moves into the old Camera One building on South First Street in the downtown arts district

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JUST AS families from the burbs pile into downtown for the outdoor ice rink and Christmas in the Park, along comes a hip new boost to San Jose's arts scene: The urban art gallery Anno Domini moves into its new location at the old Camera One building on South First Street.

For the last few months, Brian Eder and Cherri Lakey have been transforming the movie theater into what they hope will be a thriving urban arts mecca. Artists just finished painting murals on the north side of the building. Inside, where the movie screen used to be, is another mural. Also, right where the popcorn counter was sits the retail section of the gallery, where Anno Domini will sell books, T-shirts, Demano bags from Barcelona and all sorts of stuff.

"The retail space will be expanded from our old space, and the reason that's important is because since we're not a nonprofit, we have to be a bit more entrepreneurial," Lakey says. "And we call it creative capitalism with a conscience. So we want to do it with integrity to our culture in getting the artists out there, but, as well, as we need a revenue source to keep the gallery going."

The first event in the space is the annual Fresh Produce show, featuring hundreds of small, affordable ($5$200), original works of art by contemporary artists. It's a great show at which to pick up some cool, funky art without having to drop a thousand bucks. The opening reception is Friday, starting at 7pm and running until late.

Now, there aren't too many 4,100-square-foot art meccas in San Jose, so Anno Domini's takeover of the building should be applauded by everyone else in the scene. These are the folks who organized Barron Storey's "Black Iraq" exhibit, a show in which every single piece sold. Eder and Lakey represent the only full-blown counterculture arts operation in town, and they have hosted several noteworthy shows, film screenings, performances and general subversion over the years. Their move to the South First Area (SoFA) will probably even draw more folks to the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, MACLA or the Quilt Museum who might never have checked those places out.

"It's about creative independence," Lakey explains. "You can go to any strip mall or gallery row, but SoFA has a different edge to it, which isn't as common. You're not going to find Thomas Kinkade in the middle of it. Which is good. We're all thankful for that. God bless him for makin' it, but hey, you know ..."

Now that the murals on the outside of the building are complete, folks attending the park or the carnival just might wander over and check it out. SoFA is a much more appealing location than the gallery's current locale—an old brick building by the train station.

"We're really looking forward to being part of SoFA," Lakey says. "Especially with the restaurants, the California Theatre, the other arts groups. We finally feel like we're not out in Siberia trying to fend for ourselves. We want this to be successful because we're hoping that this is a catalyst for the city to say, 'You know, this was a good thing to help out with. Let's look at doing this some more.' So we really hope it's successful in that way too—that the city kind of says, 'OK, who's the next group we can help? Who's the next independent artist that wants to open up a funky shop?' And that's really important and that's why we feel like there's so much riding on this."

And, most importantly, it will finally help bring an artsy bohemian funkiness back to the SoFA, which was precisely why that district was originally rechristened "SoFA" in the first place. Now that's revitalization.


Anno Domini holds its annual Fresh Produce Show on Friday (Dec. 2), from 7pm until late, at 366 S. First St, San Jose. (408.271.5151)


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From the November 30-December 6, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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