Venice homeowner Mike Newhouse has been attracted to the creative, hip atmosphere of Venice since he began visiting a cousin in the seaside community as a teen.
“The artistic vibe here was always so palpable, even then,” said Newhouse, a former president of the Venice Neighborhood Council and a board member of Venice Arts.
His desire to continue fomenting the artistic traditions of Venice has led to a joint venture with a local businessman that has the dual possibilities of introducing visitors to boardwalk retailers and creating a new showcase for local artists.
The venture is called the Venice Art Crawl, and Newhouse, Venice photographer Edizen Stowell and businessman Daniel Samakow are the principal promoters of the initiative. Two of the principal aims of the Art Crawl are to reintroduce local artists and their work to the larger community as well as stimulate interest in the neighborhood’s famed boardwalk after dusk.
“We want folks who don’t normally visit our boardwalk during the evening hours or who don’t get the opportunity to generally come here to see that there is another side to it, the side that has businesses, shops, restaurants and galleries,” Newhouse told The Argonaut.
The Art Crawl is set to kick off its initial run Thursday, Aug. 19 at selected venues such as James Beach, the Canal Club, Danny’s Deli and the Sidewalk Café, among others. It will begin at 6 p.m. and last until 10 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, and while the initial locations will be within a few blocks to the north and south of Windward Avenue, the plan is to expand the venues further along the boardwalk.
The first three beachside venues are owned by Samakow, who sees the Art Crawl as having the same impact to revitalize the local artistic vibe as there has been in the Meat Packing District in New York City and with the Artwalk in downtown Los Angeles.
“We’re hoping that this will expand the time that people come to Venice and especially the boardwalk so that it will become a year-round destination,” Samakow said, echoing Newhouse. “If you look around the country, having a monthly event like this can revitalize underused spaces.”
Along the boardwalk there will be several “pop-up galleries,” which essentially are businesses that have agreed to showcase the labors of local artists.
A private security company has been hired and will be patrolling the boardwalk throughout the Art Crawl and Chrysalis, a nonprofit organization that assists the homeless with employment opportunities, will provide help with clean-up after the event.
Artists and galleries can visit www.VeniceArtCrawl.com/
to learn about the event’s sponsors and how to take part in the showcase.
Rip Cronk, a muralist whose works adorn Venice, believes the new artistic enterprise is in step with a Venice tradition of providing venues for artists as well as nurturing their talents.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Cronk, whose iconic mural of the late rock singer Jim Morrison of The Doors greets visitors from the side of a building at Speedway and Ocean Front Walk. “It will allow an opportunity for different artists from across the board to have their work seen.”
Newhouse, now the local neighborhood council’s president emeritus, said there has been a great deal of interest among boardwalk merchants to provide a location where visitors to the eclectic beachside community can view creative paintings, murals and other forms of art.
“We have had a lot of different merchants showing interest in having their spaces used for art displays, and that’s to everyone’s benefit,” he said.
Samakow, who studied at the California Institute of the Arts, said the idea of creating new venues for local artists was initiated last year during a Venice Task Force meeting at James Beach.
“A group of artists complained to us that there was no place for them to show their work, because not every artist can have their work exhibited at a gallery,” Samakow, a member of the task force, recalled. “So I started thinking about how to provide spaces for local artists on the boardwalk, and the idea of pop-up galleries in private spaces was what we came up with.”
Painter and sculptor John Laddie Dill, a longtime renowned figure in Venice art circles, calls the emphasis on showcasing local talent an excellent idea.
“The whole concept of what brought painters, sculptors and other artists to Venice all those years ago was not the beach. It was having all these spaces in a semi-industrial area where you could work out of a studio,” said Dill. “Now it’s become so gentrified, and a lot of local artists can’t afford to show their work here anymore.”
Brooke Harker, an artist who has shown in the past at Sponto Gallery, said the Art Crawl will offer fellow artists an opportunity to meet and compare notes as well as have their works shown.
“Anytime that you can meet new people and have the possibility of gallery owners seeing your work is great,” said Harker, who will be exhibiting her work at one of the event’s sponsors, the Venice Ocean Front Contemporary Gallery.
Samakow said Venice is the archetype for hip, original thinkers and creative types, so the Art Crawl can be the antidote that recreates the ambiance of the 1960s and 70s, which some view as the zenith of the community’s most artistic epoch.
“This is a very organic event. Venice has always been a cutting-edge place, whether its music, poetry or art,” he noted. “So it makes complete sense to showcase the Venice mindset.”
Linda Lucks, the current president of the neighborhood council, is an enthusiastic supporter of the Art Crawl.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” said Lucks, who has lived in Venice for well over three decades. “Venice is an artistic hub and this can refocus the boardwalk area around Windward Circle, which has always been a very active part of Venice’s history.”
Cronk, who plans to attend the first Art Crawl, said he also plans to donate some of his murals to Samakow to show in the pop up galleries.
“This is going to be a nice way to get to know some of the new local artists,” he said.
Newhouse, the architect of First Fridays on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, feels that the long-term benefits for the boardwalk and local artists, as well as the community, are endless if the Art Crawl becomes a success.
“Aside from getting more people to experience our boardwalk and its businesses, aside from providing these interesting spaces for local artists to showcase their work, this is also about showcasing another side of Venice,” he said. “I hope that this event will showcase the things that attracted me to Venice when I started coming here.”