a story of SubRosa & some radical history in Santa Cruz

September and October 2008 we worked on the inside and courtyard at a space at 703 Pacific Avenue that was soon to be named SubRosa (check out the entry about this at this website Name Suggestions 4 Infoshop).  Lots of folks and lots of hours.  On Halloween we were still working on the inside, painting.  People would drift in and out in costume to help until late into the night. 

The next evening, November 1st was our opening with an art show and music!  It poured rain that night and the courtyard flooded.  We called the outside area the info-swamp and set down blocks of cement as stepping stone islands.  Inside the space was packed and humid.  The paint started dripping down the walls and quite a few people went home wearing the paint on their clothes as they unwittingly leaned against the wet walls...hopefully a nice reminder of a great opening night. 

And now over 14 years later we are still going... doing-it-together. Although during the pandemic we had some tough times (acknowledging we all did in various ways). It was challenging to have a community space when people were not gathering - so we used the space in different ways… for instance as a place to store and distribute mutual aid resources. Now folk are gathering again, and we're doing-it-together differently - with community care and pandemic protocols (which can vary depending on the event and who is bottomlining). Go to our events page at this website for more info at SubRosa Events.  The space is what we make of it, and this includes you as well.  There are many ways to contribute to SubRosa.  Get involved with the space... join the collective... host an event... show your art... and so on. Another world is possible.  We can create it now, and at the same time counter the coercive and destructive impact of mainstream. So, how can SubRosa be relevant to those endeavors?  Let's figure that out together and do it.

Much appreciation to all those who have contributed to SubRosa over the past many years...so many people in so many different ways.  And may we continue to thrive for years to come.


Below from indybay post from early November 2008:  https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/10/28/18547019.php

SubRosa, a new community space in downtown Santa Cruz, hosted its grand opening event on November 1st. The event included an
art show, spoken word, live music, food, and a first look inside this vibrant new social space.

Music poured out into the rainy night, as people cramped tightly together to share in the musical performances at the grand opening of SubRosa. The small, but cozy space was filled with a vibrant youthful crowd. Event goers snacked on piles of free bread, and coffee from reusable ceramic mugs. Artwork from local artists covered the freshly painted walls, as well as a colorful display of ‘zines, and a lending library. The set had almost everyone jumping and singing along. The space will be a home to future performances, open mics, and Free Skool workshops. Stop in for a steaming cup of coffee and check out the extensive library.

SubRosa: A Community Space is a non-profit, donation-funded space for art and radical projects run by a collective of volunteers from the Santa Cruz anarchist community. Located at 703 Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz, SubRosa is open 7 days a week, 8am-1pm and 3pm-8pm.


-about the Anarchist Convergence organized by some SubRosa collective members and held in 2009 https://modes.io/anarchist-convergence/

-regarding the Demystifying Anarchy event some SubRosa collective members (and others) were also involved with in 2010 https://modes.io/demystifying-anarchy/


More Santa Cruz Radical History

-The Rhizone - in early 2000s there was a radical/anarchist community space/ infoshop located on walnut ave. that shared space with bike church and hub called the rhizone.  It had a library and meeting space.  I went there for free radio santa cruz meetings and other groups had meetings there too.  and some groups had desks and work spaces there.  It ended in part due to complaints from upstairs neighbors (things came to a head after a particularly raucous show there) and money was also a stress.  Santa cruz radicals and anarchist went to seattle in the late 1990s and this was inspirational for folks. I was not intimately involved with this project so I can’t comment on it mush.  In the same building was the hub at which an anarchist discussion group that met (this was after the rhizome closed).  There was also a dumpster collective that used the fridge in the backroom of the hub.  So much food abounded and was shared!

-What Is Art? was a radical performance and art space located at the other end of Pacific Ave. past the town clock.  Not explicitly anarchist, it was run as a collective and was around in the late-ish 1990s.  I was also involved with this space, as was another initial member of the SubRosa collective core: http://www.santacruzart.net/2007/04/now-what-what-is-art-collective-is.html

-Santa Cruz Anarchist Infoshop 2004: http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/9970/index.php and http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/8412/index.php  and http://santacruz.indymedia.org/feature/display/9991/index.php  and http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/10070/index.php and http://santacruz.indymedia.org/mod/otherpress/display/233 (this article originally in good times…one sided view and take with a grain of salt…it does point out some of the tensions involved in the group)

-@ Library - after the above infoshop closed the @ library moved to the sacred grove and i tended it for some years.  This was meant to be temporary as we thought we would find another space but that didn’t happen.  Sacred grove folks were very supportive and even gave me a key to the space: http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/11122/index.php // some books in the @ Library go back years and years when some version of the @ Library was housed in various collective houses.

-santa cruz anarchist distro quiver notice about info being found elsewhere:  http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/18065/index.php

-Info about workshop museum (friends!):  https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/04/13/18152561.php and https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/04/16/44922.php

-From website, tabs with some useful info: http://journal.subrosaproject.org/ and http://www.subrosaproject.org/p/about.html

Other stuff:

-There was an newspaper published in santa cruz in the early 2000s called the alarm with radicals and anarchists involved:  http://www.the-alarm.com/ and http://the-alarm.com/old_site/index.html

-Serf city black banner, santa cruz anarchist paper, 1994: http://www.spunk.org/cat-us/scb.html


More reflections on the beginnings of SubRosa 

SubRosa was started by a core of 5 folks from the anarchist community in santa cruz. folks at the hub (community center at 703 pacific ave in downtown santa cruz) took a chance on us since a few of us were known for our involvement in other projects like free skool santa cruz and the santa cruz guerilla drive-in... and also three of us had been around for awhile and so we knew people on the hub board. the hub, where SubRosa is located, is run by a non-profit board, and they were in charge of making the decision about who would be in the open space. we had lots of meetings with the board in july and august 2008 about utilizing the space. 

organizationally, we were making things up as we went along. at first the 5 of us referred to ourselves as “the core” and we put the word out that we were starting this project. lots of folks came to lend a hand to set up the space, which took a lot of work. some of us lent money for the start up and we were later slowly paid back. SubRosa opened nov. 1st 2008 (see journal for entry about name). at that time since SubRosa was new, a lot of folks wanted to be involved and staff, and we were open 7 days a week from morning until night with 2 shifts of 2 people staffing each day. we in the core were still figuring out our power sharing structure. the core had separate meetings that anyone could come to few besides us 5 actually went. then there were the collective staff meetings. after awhile it felt undesirable to have the core making certain decisions without the participation of the collective. we were learning how we wanted to run the space and about letting go as the core and to trust the larger collective. at that time we didn't have a firm process as to how one became a collective member/staffer. we developed this over time. i appreciated our learning process and early on disbanding the core and having things decided in the larger collective meetings...sharing power together...having a vision and not holding on to it too tightly that this squeezes out other folks and their visions and desires.

as anarchists we also talked about the complexities of being involved with the capitalist economy, renting, money, selling stuff, the core and power...good stuff and ongoing learning. ultimately, we wanted a radical community space where anyone could come, where money is not the focus and that different things could happen. these conversations have been ongoing over the years...and i imagine still are in an ebb and flow kind of way.

a couple of years earlier some of us had been meeting and trying to find a place to open an infoshop and although we didn't find anything those conversations did come into play in 2008. also on another occasion a few friends and myself were close to opening an infoshop in the garage of someone's house...then that didn't come to pass. around that time, i made a flyer looking for a space and a friend provided the text. we had a couple meetings in the park. so between the santa cruz anarchist infoshop on broadway and SubRosa there were a few attempts to get something else going. in part finding the right space was a challenge.

this area at 703 pacific avenue has been a lot of things. early on it was an auto mechanic place. a punky cafe was here in the 1990s which i never went to. before SubRosa and people power shared the building it was vacant for some time. previous to that a business called the serpent's kiss was here (now on other end of pacific ave.). before that a store called anibus warpus (or something like that). i don't know why the space was originally built...maybe for the car business? the bike church has those big double doors that could accommodate cars. the bike church (and hub) was at 703 pacific ave almost 3 years before SubRosa. it moved from the walnut ave. location (again where the other infoshop was) to it's current location. in the late 1990s the bike church shared a wall with what is art? (the performance/art space referred to in above information about other radical projects).

and the project has changed our focus and ways of operating over time, while remaining an anarchist space and committed to collective ways of organizing ourselves and running the space. here’s a post from the journal about our shift away from the open hours ways of functioning to being more of an event space - http://journal.subrosaproject.org/2014/11/collective-dreaming-in-sierras.html - and that process continues… for us involved in the SubRosa collective now to continue that collective dreaming and making that happen together.


also, on the SubRosa website (http://www.subrosaproject.org/) under the about tab it says this about the project (which is not a mission statement but is a description that the collective did work on together a couple of years ago...)

“SubRosa is an anarchist community space run by a collective of committed people from the Santa Cruz area, freely giving of our energy and time.  

We put our energy into SubRosa to create a vibrant environment, available for events, classes and meetings, collaborations and organizing, art and creativity, as well as reading and studying.  We offer a selection of radical books and magazines, coffee and tea, and a space for art, performance, and community. 

This is a space to meet people, share resources and ideas, challenge our assumptions and act on our passions.

As anti-authoritarian space, we strive to create an environment where people are empowered to have interactions based on self-responsibility, mutual respect and free association.  We want to create a welcoming space for others who share the goals of diverse community, respect for all forms of life, and freedom from coercive relationships, to foster an environment free from sexism, homophobia, racism, and other forms of hierarchy.”

Yup, still rings true - except less of an emphasis on coffee and tea.

(Note: all of the above are just my reflections and recollections. And I could have included so much more and someone else would have shared a different variety of resources and memories. May this be part of a larger patchwork radical and community memory. -j!)

No comments:

Post a Comment