Dangerous Sound at Risk of Losing Its Sanctuary

When I first walked into Sanctuary Sound I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. From the scratched and tagged door marking the entrance, to the bathtub serving as a makeshift urinal, the words community space didn’t enter my mind. But that’s exactly what it is, and perhaps fitting for one that defines itself as a safe space for dangerous sound.

“There has existed a need for creative spaces for a long time but now more than ever our community deserves a place where it’s safe to express the culture and art that is a part of our life,” Ana Jimenes, a cofounder and organizer, said. “The sounds we make with our music, voices, art and dance is dangerous to some but we understand its meanings and purpose so we call our space Sanctuary Sound, a safe space for dangerous sound.”

Sanctuary Sound is at once a recording studio for local artists, a venue for local youth to catch a show every weekend, and a space for local organizers to host teach ins and meetings.

It is the lovechild of SanTana artists and organizers Nestor Medrano (IllNess Infection), Ana Jimenes, Cinthia Perez, and Perla Dionosio, just to name a few. And over the last year it became home to artists like Weapons of Mass Creation and the hundreds of working class Latinx Youth who attend the shows.

The story of Sanctuary Sound began when this group of community members sought an autonomous space in which to make noise. In their pursuit, organizers Nestor and Edgar rented an old video store and transformed it into a music studio and venue.

“It took us almost a year to find a place and all of our savings, including community members who invested in our existence,” Ana said.

In the months after its founding, others followed.

The Chingonas at Ovarian Psycho-Cycles held a screening of their documentary, the event “El Lente de la Mujer” highlighted the womxn photographing life in Orange County, and Orange County Immigrant Youth United held a series of fundraisers.

Today Sanctuary Sound is in danger of losing its space. The combined forces of gentrification and the process of establishing itself placed a heavy financial burden.

As gentrifiers drive property values up in the downtown area it is increasingly difficult for the Latinx community that once kept La Cuatro and its surrounding streets alive, to do business. Sanctuary Sound, with its working class, Latinx roots is no exception.

But the impacts of gentrification and the campaign of displacement being waged by groups like Downtown Inc. are precisely why Sanctuary Sound is an invaluable space. Being located in the heart of SanTana, it is perhaps the last remaining space downtown for working class, Latinx youth to truly claim as their own.

“[Much] of what’s being invested in is geared towards more affluent demographic that excludes the working-class communities from Santa Ana,” Ana said. “As a result, many of the talented youth and individuals in our community do not have access to creative spaces that can enhance their abilities.”

This stands in contrast to spaces like the Frida Cinema which received a rent-free lease for over a year.

The financial strain also comes from the process of securing permits and licenses to operate. These cover things like construction to renovate the space. Now under a strict deadline to secure these permits and licenses, the community of Sanctuary Sound must find a way to raise $30,000.

That’s why they’ve launched a GoFundme campaign, which as of now pulled in $700 in donations.

But despite the financial stress the original mission to support the community and build a safe space for dangerous sound remains priority number one.

“We seek to create a self-sustaining autonomous creative space for community learning and growth,” Ana said. “Although we seek sustainability which is to make enough money to run Sanctuary Sound our main purpose is to reinvest in the many talented people in our community with both space, skill development, and financial support.”

You can help keep Sanctuary Sound alive by donating to its GoFundme campaign using the button below.

Hairo Cortes is a founding member and Director of Chispa. His organizing background in immigrant rights has seen him lead local, statewide, and national campaigns against deportations and immigrant detention. His cultural and political commentary has been published in outlets like OC Weekly, Univision, and Latino Rebels, among others. When not organizing, you can find him playing with his cats Om’Nom and Chispita or singing along to Johnny Cash.

Follow Hairo @hairo_0 @hairo_0