Venice Art Walk, an annual event where Venice’s fine artists open the doors of their studios to help raise money for local healthcare for the uninsured, is scheduled for Sunday, May 20th, with registration beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Westminster Avenue Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. Tickets are $50. Tour hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Art Walk is preceded by an Art & Architecture Tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 19th, starting at the office of David Hertz, 1920 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica. Tickets are $50.

Both events benefit the Venice Family Clinic, the nation’s largest free healthcare clinic. The Venice Art Walk is the annual event that ensures that the Venice Family Clinic is able to continue to offer free healthcare to uninsured individuals and families in Los Angeles County. Though not the clinic’s biggest fundraiser of the year, it is the largest community event that the Venice Family Clinic stages, and it averages about 4,000 people per year. The clinic raises about half a million dollars per year from the art walk and its related activities.

This year, about 60 artists’ studios, homes and special exhibits will be on view during the art walk. For the first time, the studio tours expand south of Venice Boulevard, showing the works of artists, photographers and designers in the lofts and studios of Victoria Avenue.

During art walk hours, a silent auction will take place at the Westminster School, where approximately 400 original donated works of art will be up for bidding. The public can preview the silent auction free of charge from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 19th, the day before the art walk.

The art walk will also feature a food fair, cocktail lounges, live music, drawings for a Robert Graham sculpture and a Mercedes-Benz.

Gajin Fujita’s graffiti art image, “Trance,” is on this year’s Venice Art Walk posters and T-shirts.

ART WALK HISTORY — Volunteer Irma Colen founded the Venice Art Walk 28 years ago when she brought a group of friends together and shared her idea of an event to raise money for the then-fledgling Venice Family Clinic by celebrating the community of Venice and the artists who live there. Noticing that many of the patients who came to the clinic were artists, she conceived of an idea to get them to open their studios and charge money for an art tour. Colen phoned a friend who knew architect Frank Gehry. Sympathetic to the cause, Gehry recruited a number of artists he knew to participate in the event. One of the artists he asked was Laddie John Dill. Dill agreed and has participated in Venice Art Walk every year since. Dill also serves as a member of the Venice Family Clinic’s Advisory Board.

VENICE FAMILY CLINIC — The Venice Family Clinic has provided access to basic medical services for the poor and uninsured in the local area since 1970. The clinic has branched out into seven locations, including one on the grounds of the Mar Vista Public Housing Development.

The clinic operates on an approximately $15 million annual operating budget from a combination of public and private funding. The private funding is from grants, corporate donors and individual contributors.

Money raised at the Venice Art Walk each year goes directly to medical care costs, according to Venice Family Clinic spokeswoman Linda Feldman.

The idea of the free clinic is to provide healthcare to families of workers who do not receive health insurance from their jobs and to provide medical coverage to those unemployed who cannot afford it.

The clinic operates with a staff of about 18 doctors, plus about 519 physicians who volunteer a few hours per week, says Feldman.

Many of the volunteer doctors have their own private practices elsewhere and volunteer time at the clinic. Others are retired doctors able to commit personal time to the clinic.

Information, (310) 392-9255 or www.venicefamilyclinic.org/.

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