Dozens of artists and vendors arrived the morning of Jan. 12 for what they thought was a routine meeting between themselves and the management staff of Artegon Marketplace, Orlando's two-year-old "anti-mall" on International Drive. In hindsight, maybe the presence of Orlando Police officers and bodyguards should have tipped them off something was out of the ordinary.
Instead, the group known for its eclectic art sat crowded in front of the Book Warehouse to listen to David Miskin, the chief marketing officer at Lightstone Group, Artegon's New York-based parent company, which owns $2.5 billion in real estate projects. After a few pleasantries, Sina Sutter remembers the gasps in the room when Miskin told them it was over – Artegon was closing.
"When he said we had to leave, that whole group of 60 to 70 people got up and started asking, 'What? No! How? Why?'" she says in Spanish. "Everyone was left uncertain. These were people that had invested millions of dollars into this. What do you mean I have to move in 10 to 15 days?"
Since closing, Artegon has only released a short statement from its end, saying, "Lightstone will be taking its Artegon Marketplace property in a new direction. While it was a difficult decision to discontinue operations, we are thankful to our team in Orlando, and to our tenants, for their hard work and dedication over the past several years." OPD spokeswoman Wanda Miglio confirmed Artegon actually hired police officers to work there for the closing, though she couldn't immediately confirm how many.
Sutter, who opened a fine art gallery called Pinturas that featured her canvas paintings with hand-cut glass, says she felt like she lost family.
"Artegon was the ideal place for artists in Orlando because there was nothing like it," she says. "There's festivals and events, but no organization, no institution, had given a space like that for artists to develop their talent and sell their products in a fixed place. And to me, this was more than just a business. It was a way of life. We all were dedicated to what we did, and we were always sharing with one another. It was a space for creation."