It’s a sad irony for those of us who crave more mass transit that a special spot has to fall to make way for the Expo Line. Wine-sipping, art loving visitors have flocked to the galleries at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica for nearly 20 years, but the building that houses the massive 13-thousand square foot wonder known as Track 16 will be razed soon, and in its place, a train platform will eventually rise for the Olympic and 26th Street stop. (Next door neighbor Robert Berman’s Gallery and Auction House has found other space on the grounds, but there’s no space to accommodate Track 16.)
The workmen had already arrived last week to prep the site, even before the December 7th move-out date. I went to talk to Hollywood writer and producer Tom Patchett (“Alf,” “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” “The Bob Newhart Show”) who helped develop Bergamot Station back in 1994, when it was a warren of abandoned warehouses.
If you’ve ever visited Track 16, you know it wasn’t a typical gallery. It was enormous, crazy, fun-filled with Americana, like this old diner from the twenties, and lots of memorabilia, like the original Brown Derby neon sign.
Patchett and his crew prided themselves on what they offered the community, often for free: “Theater, performance, all kinds of events,” he said. “Our specialty has not been selling art because we didn’t want to be dependent on the things that were commercial and salable so we tried a lot of experimental things. In fact during the Occupy Movement we did a show called Occupy Track 16 where people were allowed to write on walls and the young woman who was on the cover of Time Magazine as the Person of the Year “the occupier” came and lived in our gallery for a month, pitched a tent, so we’ve done some really crazy, kooky wonderful things.”
Those days are over now. Patchett and his staff are moving what they haven’t sold off to an industrial area in Culver City, where there’ll be on their own. And, as a result, Patchett says, Bergamot’s days as a cloistered fine arts village are done. “It was just one of those really flukey things, in the middle of a large metropolitan area that will never, cannot be replaced,” he said. It’s likely a hotel, parking lot and retail space will be built on the site.
While the remaining tenants are hopeful that more traffic won’t spoil the feel of Bergamot, there’s no way to know what will happen once the train comes in. “While Bergamot will survive in whatever way shape and form, I wish everyone well, we are really devastated,” said Patchett. “I just don’t see how we could possibly duplicate what we were doing here anywhere else.”