Courtesy Walley Films
Filmmaker Mark Walley documents the damage inside Casa Chuck
Not long after artist Chuck Ramirez died in a Southtown cycling accident, Sala Diaz
created the Casa Chuck residency to commemorate one of San Antonio’s most beloved contemporary artists and bons vivants. Since 2011, writers, critics and curators from across the world have lived in Ramirez’s former residence and studio space, the goal being to make his old home an incubator for true social connectivity and creative exchange across all borders and cultures. The result: San Antonio artists who have been included in exhibitions in Juarez, Leon, Mexico City and Paris.
That residency came to an abrupt halt on May 2, when an electrical fire ate through a wall inside the home, destroying part of the building’s roof. Ramirez’s belongings were packed into boxes and two shows were canceled. The first was by Sterling Allen, the most recent resident who co-founded and helps direct an artist collective in Austin; Allen had driven back to Austin the day before the fire and wasn’t hurt. The second was supposed to be a show by M12, a collective out of Denver that had even planned to have its board retreat at Casa Chuck.
"All programming has halted, and we are currently shuttered and without power," Sala Diaz director Anjali Gupta told us. "Scheduled artists, residents and guests are currently in limbo."
Making structural improvements to the house that encompasses Casa Chuck became one of Gupta’s primary goals as soon as she became Sala Diaz director last year. Gupta, who told us the building had fallen into “disrepair,” said the small nonprofit had actually planned to fix problems with the foundation, electrical wiring, plumbing and roof in phases over the next three years.
Last month’s fire scuttled all that planning. To make matters worse, Gupta says she recently met with an insurance claims adjuster who already indicated that some major damage won’t be covered – like the roof and part of the electrical system, which is clearly not safe, that runs through another part of the building.
All of which means a lot of uncertainty for the Casa Chuck residency, says Gupta. “I would like to get the gallery up to snuff and reopen as soon as possible, which will all have to be done via donations
, emergency grants and discretionary funds,” Gupta told us. “The apartment will take much longer, as there is so much more to be addressed. I cannot estimate when it will be back to normal.”
In the meantime, others have stepped stepped up to fill the void left by the fire. According to Gupta, current Artpace resident Andy Coolquit has offered to host Sterling Allen's exhibition at his studio/gallery at Artpace. Gupta says Allen plans to reimagine the installation he'd planned for San Antonio to be site specific at Artpace, just as it was at Sala Diaz before the fire.