Mar Vista continues its renaissance with an inaugural art walk and a street festival for Small Business Saturday

By Christina Campodonico

Mar Vista’s inaugural art walk will feature live painting to live music along the Venice Boulevard Photo courtesy of Lenore French

Mar Vista’s inaugural art walk will feature live painting to live music along the Venice Boulevard
Photo courtesy of Lenore French

Andy Warhol once said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Artists, business owners and community organizers in Mar Vista are putting their own spin on Warhol’s witticism this week with a pair of festivals celebrating the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of this reemerging neighborhood.

On Saturday, the budding Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce hosts “Make it Mar Vista,” a daylong street festival featuring interactive art projects, live entertainment, a collaborative local “living history” project, pottery and Pilates demonstrations, a community bike ride and various other activities among 34 participating businesses.

The festival, coinciding with national Small Business Saturday, centers around the one-mile stretch of Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard, where tiny green spaces and a temporary parking-protected bike lane will model improvements planned for the area under Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets neighborhood renewal plan.

Then on Thursday, Dec. 3, that same stretch of boulevard hosts Mar Vista’s inaugural art walk, “Steppin into the Art of Mar Vista,” with live painting to music and dance at Grand View Market, spoken word at youth writing nonprofit 826LA’s Time Travel Mart, a concert at TimeWarp Records, art openings at the Trunk Gallery, Buckwild Gallery and C. Nichols Project, plus an environmentally themed scavenger hunt for repurposed household goods hosted by Dreameco Crafts.

Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce President Sarah Auerswald says Mar Vista’s walkability makes it fertile ground for small businesses and artists to thrive. She encourages her friends and neighbors to get out on the street and shop small and local, a process she likes to call “Erin Brokoviching.”

“You activate the street by getting people out and about,” Auerswald says.

On Saturday, the block of Venice between Grand View Boulevard and Centinela Avenue will be reduced from three lanes of traffic to two in order to demonstrate how parklets and protected bike lanes could further transform that whole corridor into an even more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly environment.

Mar Vista art walk co-organizer Lenore French of the Green Communications Initiative also thinks that Mar Vista’s preexisting and “organic” art community naturally lends itself to the neighborhood’s walkability.

“An art zone is a proven way to get people to walk,” she says. “And that’s exactly the way [Mar Vista] is.”

Mar Vista’s capacity for creative collaboration will be on display at Trunk Gallery, where artist and owner Ann Perich has invited 32 artists to fill the space with their takes on the toy train set. Perich gave out toy train sets to artists she knew or who passed through her gallery, asking them to modify the toys however they wanted and return them however they pleased.

Perich doesn’t know what to expect — the returned items could be on canvas, pedestals, cubes or film — but she knows that “it’s going to be a surprise.”

Mar Vista has become increasingly populated by creative hubs like Trunk Gallery, the Time Travel Art, Grand View Fine Art Studios, but it’s also home to more entrepreneurial arts-related spaces, including Full-Circle Pottery and Peach Tree Pottery. Each is hosting live clay-molding demonstrations during both events.

The Full-Circle Pottery “clay space” on Venice Boulevard functions as both workshop and classroom, says co-owner Patty Housen. She started the business with Liz Rosenblatt four years ago because they wanted a place that could operate as a studio space for their pottery-making practice as well as a community center for people who love clay and want to hone their skills, Housen says. Full-Circle Pottery now holds classes for adults and children, as well as kids camps, intensives and expression sessions.

During Make It Mar Vista, Full-Circle Pottery will concurrently host its third annual Full-Circle Festival, which brings in local artists and artisans to showcase their handiwork and participate in a raffle benefitting the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. The fundraiser honors the memory of Housen’s and Rosenblatt’s mentor and teacher, Mar Vista potter Linda Mechanic, who died of the disease. Clay activities for kids and pottery wheel demonstrations are also scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Housen credits the community for the success of their artistic business.

“We’ve been growing since we got here, and I think it’s been part of what’s been happening in the community,” says Housen. “This community has taken a real interest. People come by and want to come in.”

Artist Amy Bauer, who will run the art walk’s eco-friendly scavenger hunt, recently started a craft business with husband Richard Hecht and also thinks that something special is happening in Mar Vista.

“Mar Vista is at that perfect point where artists can make their own items and get out in the community,” says the recent New York-transplant, who moved from Brooklyn two years ago after witnessing that neighborhood’s shift from an artist’s enclave to a pricy borough out of reach for many in the creative class.

Artist Mitchelito Orquiola, becoming known about town as the unofficial “mayor of Mar Vista art,” hopes that “Steppin into the Art of Mar Vista” will shine a light on the area’s already vibrant arts scene.  He says that many people, even if they live in Mar Vista, don’t always know about the creative things happening in their own backyard.

To celebrate the neighborhood’s first art walk, he and art partner Chalavie (a.k.a. Charlotte Vanhaecke) are painting a mural that will hang on a billboard above The Venice Grind starting Nov. 30. The mural is meant to “attract, announce and advertise” the art walk, Orquiola says.

But it also seems like a sign that Mar Vista itself has arrived.

“Make it Mar Vista” happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, along Venice Boulevard between Inglewood and Beethoven. Highlights include a 10 a.m. kick-off bike ride, an interactive art project on the lawn of the Mar Vista Library (12006 Venice Blvd.) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a noon pottery demonstration at Peach Tree Pottery (3795 Boise Ave.), a free 12:30 p.m. Pilates class at the Moving Joint (12813 Venice Blvd.), a day-long bilingual “living history” project at the Time Travel Mart (12515 Venice Blvd.), plus clay activities for kids starting at 1 p.m. and pottery wheel demonstrations from 2 to 3:30 Full-Circle Pottery (12023 Venice Blvd.).

“Steppin into the Art of Mar Vista” happens from 6 to 9 p.m. along Venice Boulevard between Inglewood and Beethoven. Highlights include “The Toy Train Show” at Trunk Gallery (12818 Venice Blvd.), an improvisational live music and dance jam at The Moving
Joint (12813 Venice Blvd.), art performances by young adults affiliated with the nonprofit Pieces Art at Buckwild Gallery (12804 Venice Blvd.), live projections of experimental art videos at Veganics Catering (12809 Venice Blvd.), spoken word at the Time Travel Mart (12515 Venice Blvd.) and live painting to music at Grand View Market (12210 Venice Blvd.) and Vintage on Venice (12218 Venice Blvd.).