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On “Q”by Wendy Bowman-Littler | Riviera Orange County magazine | August 27, 2012
Santa Ana’s bustling Artists Village is an ever-growing four-block area of downtown that’s centered around the Second Street Promenade, between Broadway Avenue and Spurgeon Street. And Jose Quant relishes strolling through its 40-plus new and established art galleries, restaurants, theaters, shops and live-work studios. When he’s not at Courbet Art Circle—the studio/gallery he’s owned and operated for the past six years—or the new Q Art Salon that he recently opened at the corner of North Sycamore and West First streets, he can be found on the patio of Lola Gaspar restaurant in the historic Santora Arts Building. There, he orders appetizers—smoked bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese and handmade chorizo flatbread to be shared with friends amid a mix of locals and visitors from all walks of life.
Afterward, Quant typically heads out for a walk around the block—past institutions like Cal State Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center and the O.C. Center for Contemporary Art. He also drops by to chat with the affable owners of local establishments, including The Gypsy Den. At Chapter One: the modern local, he enjoys listening to owner Jeff Jensen extol the area’s virtues—from all of its fun events, like the free Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk, held the first Saturday of the month, to the Día de los Muertos festival each fall. For Jensen (who donated the eats for the May 5 debut of Quant’s gallery) and many other locals, Q is a source of excitement. It’s among a growing slate of businesses joining the mix—all of which attract attention to the district.
“The opening of Q Art Salon brings additional sophistication to the Santa Ana arts community,” says John D. Spiak, director and chief curator of the Grand Central Art Center, a 1920s-era building that has been transformed into a 45,000-square-foot, three-level structure that houses studio and living quarters for graduate art students, as well as galleries and exhibition spaces, a small theater, and a gift shop. “It complements the current spaces, as well as the artists and galleries of the Santora Building.”
Clearly, Quant, a native of Nicaragua, is no stranger to the village. He moved to California years ago and has run Courbet Art Circle since 2006. There, he holds drawing and painting workshops every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (except for art-walk nights, when he stages a show featuring talents such as Marinus Welman and Kathleen Sabine). He calls Santa Ana the scene of his life’s second act. After 30 years working in the fashion industry (as the owner of Paris Blues, the junior denim brand he founded in 1981), he plans to retire soon and divide his time between Q, a contemporary gallery showing portraiture, edgy figurative work, cityscapes and contemporary realism, and his painting—something he picked up 13 years ago as a hobby, became obsessed with and went on to study at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design. But he’s most excited about Q. “There is nothing like the type of art I’m showing around here, and it’s great to expose young people to that,” he says. “Typically, you would have to go to L.A. and New York to see this type of work.”
Visitors often are drawn to the gallery’s top confines—an expansive area patterned after 18th- and 19th-century French salons, where artists would gather to show their creations, complete with seating nooks and Quant’s own mostly figurative artwork and pieces by artists like Russian-born abstract painter Alex Kanevsky, whom he admires for his ability to “deconstruct the human figure without dissolving the actual figure,” and up-and-coming L.A. contemporary realist painter Sean Cheetham, who was part of the gallery’s opening show, The Knights Debut.
The first floor is reserved for exhibits (Holocaust Images of WWII was the most recent program, with works by Marinus Welman). When there’s no exhibit, Quant shows samples of his art or pieces from his collection. “By opening this place and showing the type of art that I think is very new in this area, I hope it’s helping the community grow,” Quant says. “I would like to see more galleries, more businesses coming here. The area is beautiful, with incredible historical buildings that I don’t see anywhere in O.C. The opportunity is here.”