Circle of Color, a summer solstice art and music celebration centered around Venice’s culture of street artists and the struggle for free speech on the Venice boardwalk, is scheduled from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 17th, at Sponto Gallery, 7 Dudley Ave., Venice. Admission is free.
“We’re looking to carry on and to reinvent the spirit of freedom and creativity that the Beatniks and poets and political activists brought to Venice in the 1950s and ’60s,” says Gerry Fialka, who helps organize the event and performs with his band Black Shoe Polish.
Some musical highlights of the evening include performances by the Venice Beach Drum Orchestra, Chandra Das, Diane Butler, Suzy Williams, Petr Hromadko, Gitane Demone, Black Shoe Polish and Jean Paul.
Among the artists participating in the exhibit are William Attaway, Ibrahim Butler, Diane Butler, Leland Auslender, Lani Ware, True and Zsuzsanna.
Abstract art, transcendental and consciousness-themed works, and artwork strewn with messages of social concern, such as “No human is illegal” (while anti-immigrant laws were being proposed in Congress) and “There’s no money in peace” (while the war in Iraq raged), have been common visuals hung salon-style on the walls of the Sponto Gallery at past Circle of Color shows.
Ibrahim and Diane Butler, along with their artist daughter Lani Ware are the main organizers of these twice-annual winter and summer solstice celebrations. The Butlers are painters who show their works on the Venice Beach boardwalk daily. Ibrahim Butler also performs with his African drum-based ensemble afternoons on the boardwalk.
The two are vocal opponents of the Los Angeles City Council ordinance that they say places curbs on freedom of expression on the boardwalk by requiring artists to obtain a “Permit for Public Expression” for a $25 fee and assigns spots for artists to stand. The Butlers work to raise awareness about the issue in Venice and at the Circle of Color events.
The night features performances by Venice artists united against the boardwalk regulations that affect the west side of the public boardwalk.
Homelessness is another issue of importance to Circle of Color organizers. Ibrahim Butler is known for reaching out to the homeless, drug addicts and drifters that sometimes wind up on Venice Beach in need of help, according to Fialka. And this outlook crosses over into the Circle of Color show, which sometimes features homeless poets and performers.
“This event is about community togetherness and a creative spirit that dates back to the days of Abbot Kinney. It exemplifies what Venice is about,” says Fialka. “It’s about acceptance of all humans, all races, all incomes.”
The 7 Dudley Ave. location, a half block away from Venice Beach, is a historic mecca for Venice Beatniks. The venue used to be the Venice West Cafe, which, along with the nearby Gashouse, was one of the main hangouts for Beatniks and poets in the 1950s and ’60s.
One Circle of Color artist, who was around to witness that scene firsthand and filmed hippie parties and poetry readings at the Venice West Cafe, is photographer Leland Auslender, whose “Celestial Images” feature transcendental, mystical and poetic scenes and show symbolic chakras.
Chanteuse Suzy Williams will play blues and obscure R. Crumb tunes with guitarist Tom Marion of the Cheap Suit Serenaders; Black Show Polish plays avant-garde funk with “astral moods, genre mashing and radical poetry”; Chandra Das features “primordial sounds” via Vedic chanting and guitar; Petr Hromadka and Friends plays World beats centered around the bass guitar; Venice Beach Drum Orchestra plays improv African rhythms; Gitane Demone plays bluesy swamp rock centered around her soulful, rangeful vocals; and Jean Paul is an “exotic” multi-lingual singer with songs in French, Creole and Spanish.
Information, (310) 306-7330.