Sunday’s ARTBLOCK tour brings viewers into the places where 64 Venice artists do their thing

By Michael Aushenker

ARTBLOCK participants meet regularly to help plan the event, maintaining its grassroots feel

ARTBLOCK participants meet regularly to help plan the event, maintaining its grassroots feel

At most fine art happenings, the viewer does not get to see an artist’s creations until it’s left his or her studio and hit the gallery wall. On Sunday, ARTBLOCK flips the script — or the canvas, as the case may be — to bring art lovers and collectors alike into the creator’s space.

ARTBLOCK aims for a different idea than that of the venerable Venice Art Crawl but shares the Art Crawl’s spirit of boosting the talent in our midst. The artist-run, open-studio event is free to attend and includes free bus and pedicab service to bring art lovers to art creators at their Venice studios.

Attendees pick up a map at 4th and Sunset Avenues, where many studios are centered, and look for flags marking participating venues.  Most of these creative spaces are rarely open to the public.

“There’s a lot to be revealed to people,” said ARTBLOCK co-organizer and muralist Francisco Letelier.

Among 64 participating artists on the tour are Bill Attaway, Ara Bevacqua, Alberto Bevacqua, Alisabeth Brown, Gregory Weir-Quiton, Juri Koll and Kate Wolfgang Savage on Sunset Avenue; Bee Colman and Sandy Bleifer on Sunset Court; Diana Hobson, Michele Castagnetti, Jon Grauman and Kwaku Alston on Abbot Kinney Boulevard; Trace Palmer, Victoria Livingstone, Stephanie Visser on Vernon Avenue; and Natasa Stearns Prosenc, Rohitash Rao, Amy Kaps and Marianne Magne on Electric Avenue.

A photograph of a Burning Man participant taken by ARTBLOCK artist Eric Scwabel

A photograph of a Burning Man participant taken by ARTBLOCK artist Eric Scwabel

Sunday’s event represents ARTBLOCK’s third occurrence in one year. Rounding its first anniversary, ARTBLOCK celebrates with new elements this time around: more participating artists and a portable bus gallery parked near Sunset and 4th Avenue, where attendees can climb aboard for some eye and brain candy.

ARTBLOCK circulates around “an area that is historically a source of art and imagination that fuels the imagination of people. It’s wonderful for artists to harness that myth in a way that’s positive,” Letelier said. “Since we are on the edges on Los Angeles, many people in the arts don’t have a sense of how an artist community can fit inside a grander civic [plan].”

Organizers say this confederation of Venice artists has been endorsed by numerous cultural and civic organizations, including the office of City Councilman Mike Bonin, Venice Neighborhood Council, Social and Public Art Resource Center and Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

According to Letelier, some have mischaracterized ARTBLOCK as a reaction to several veteran artists being shut out of last May’s Venice Family Clinic Art Walk fundraiser. While a few disgruntled artists did rant publicly against the Art Walk, that wasn’t ARTBLOCK’s raison d’etre.

“Really, it’s been a long time coming to have an intergenerational art event created by independent artists,” Letelier said.

Many studios on the route feature several artists. For example, Letelier’s studio also features seven others.

Letelier and partner Mary Fama have collaborated on various projects, including a Dogtown mural at Brooks and 4th Avenue that features loping canines. This weekend’s event highlights a mobile tribute to late poet and Venice fixture Wanda Coleman, whose portrait on Indiana Court and 6th Avenue Letelier and Fama have just finished up with the help of youngsters from Youth Build and Venice Community Housing Corporation.

The recently completed Wanda Coleman Portable Spoken Word Mural

The recently completed Wanda Coleman Portable Spoken Word Mural

“People of all ages make the whole constituency stronger,” Letelier said.

Some of the pieces on display are interactive. Accompanying the Coleman piece near Letelier’s studio are installation boxes: one with Coleman poems and another with blank pages for attendees to write down their own poems.

Coleman, Letelier said, “was a champion of the arts who felt that public space was really important. It was really great how she always turned out for public art.”

Letelier relishes the spirit behind ARTBLOCK.

“At every single one of our meetings, we’re really discovering what great fun it is to have a community of peers in which all of us are coming together to plan an event and have only ourselves to answer to,” he said. “How powerful it is to have mutual support from other artists [who usually work in isolation].”

Another ARTBLOCK open studio is planned for October, with smaller events in the coming months.

ARTBLOCK happens between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday. Free parking is available at Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd., and at SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center), 685 Venice Blvd. For more information, visit