Camerata Singers, community rally to save Open Gallery with free concert, events

The benefit concert this Friday is the latest effort to help rebuild the family-run art gallery, which was destroyed after two cars crashed through it on Feb. 24.

Camerata Singers, community rally to save Open Gallery with free concert, events
Open Gallery was destroyed on Feb. 24, 2024 after two cars crashed through the building. Photo courtesy of Artos Saucedo.

After two cars plowed through their art gallery and into their adjoining apartment, Artos Saucedo and his family’s lives were turned upside down. A month and a half later, the community is still rallying behind them.

The latest effort to help the family rebuild their gallery is a free benefit concert this Friday featuring the Camerata Singers.

The nonprofit choir was originally slated to perform inside Open Gallery as part of the Long Beach Arts Council’s Creative Collaboration in conjunction with an art exhibit by Michelle Marks. Instead, under the direction of Grammy Awards-winner James Bass, the group will perform excerpts from its 2023 Peace Project “The Worth of Water” at Grace First Presbyterian Church.

“It was a big surprise,” Saucedo’s wife Liz Garibaldi told the Watchdog Thursday of the show-turned-fundraiser. “I’m just really excited to listen to the singers, feel the frequency and energy that they’re outputting, and use it as a healing method.”

In the early hours of Saturday, Feb. 24, Saucedo and Garibaldi awoke to their loft filled with smoke and flashing lights — and a car inches from their 13-year-old son in the next room. A suspected drunk driver, identified as 32-year-old Long Beach resident Luis Medinas Amador, collided with another vehicle, sending both cars through the building.

No one in the family was hurt, but the family’s lives have been anything but normal since.

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The couple has operated the recently expanded Open Gallery, an art studio and showroom adjacent to their apartment, for about five years. An inspection following the crash found the structural integrity of the building was compromised, meaning extensive repairs would be needed to reopen the space.

“A big part of our monthly income was having people use the space for their creative ventures,” Saucedo said Thursday. “Now that we can’t offer that space, how do we make our monthly income?”

Friends and family quickly came to their aid, Garibaldi said, sending a combined several thousand dollars directly to them via Zelle. One friend raised about $400 during a bake sale, Saucedo added.

A GoFundMe campaign has also raised nearly $43,000.

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Friday’s fundraising event begins at 8 p.m. and all donations collected at the door will go toward rebuilding Open Gallery.

The following day, Los Angeles-based artist Francisco Reyes, Jr., aka Never Made, will be at the couple’s gift shop, which also is attached to the shuttered gallery space but was unaffected by the crash. Reyes is dusting off an old print that was originally intended to support small businesses in Long Beach that were damaged during Black Lives Matter activity in 2020.

The “Long Beach Strong” image raised $22,355 at the time, according to Reyes, which was given directly to shop owners. The 18-by-24-inch prints will be sold for $55 from 1 to 3 p.m. at 1740 E. Seventh St.

Another fundraiser, organized by Art Clout, a Long Beach-based co-op, and mixed-media artist Dave Clark, is scheduled for Saturday April 27th 4 to 9 p.m. and Sunday April 28th 2 to 6 p.m. at 13300 Gladys Ave. Artists are being invited to donate pieces to the benefit show, with 100% of the art sales going to support the family.

But the family still has a long road ahead of them, Saucedo said. Thanks to the donations, after weeks of staying with family, they were recently able to move into a new apartment about a mile from the gallery, he said.

“That is a huge victory for us,” Saucedo said.

There is still a lot of work to be done with the space itself, Saucedo said, noting that it is still full of debris. The couple, however, hopes to reopen the gallery before the end of the year and they are already making plans on how they can give back to the community, which has supported them through this crisis.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Garibaldi said of the community support. “We’re so used to giving, but now it’s our time to receive.

“I am really happy that I don’t have to be so scared of not being able to eat and pay for certain things,” she continued. “It’s nice to see that people are on our side.”

Camerata Sings for A Cause begins at 8 p.m. Friday at Grace First Presbyterian Church, 3955 N. Studebaker Rd. Donations to Open Gallery can be made here.