Now a collaboration 60 artists strong, the biannual open studio tour heads into its fourth outing on Sunday
By Kathy Leonardo (Photo by Edizen Stowell / Venice Paparazzi)
Venice has long been known as an artistic community and, as of late, it’s building quite the reputation for public arts events.
There’s the annual Venice Art Walk and Auctions benefit for the Venice Family Clinic, the quarterly Venice Art Crawl and the relatively new Venice ARTBLOCK Open Studio Tour — a free, self-guided public exploration of local artists’ studios that takes place twice a year, including this coming Sunday.
Venice ARTBLOCK Open Studios was born in May 2013 as an event to celebrate several longtime Venice art studios that weren’t included in that year’s Google-hosted Venice Art Walk & Auctions.
“The ARTBLOCK decided to include everyone by opening artists’ studios for free,” said artist Juri Koll, founder of Venice Institute of Contemporary Art. “More importantly, it helps artists sell their work and allows them to stay in Venice.”
Koll said the event is all about preserving and protecting the artists and creative culture that have made Venice what it is. “Otherwise,” he said, “we’ll lose the most important cultural resource L.A. has ever produced.”
So far, the event has been all about bringing people together.
“Venice ARTBLOCK was created by six artists who barely knew each other,” said Pamela Wier-Quiton, one of the original six who came up with the idea. “Currently we are 60 artists who have evolved into a synergistic alliance that allows us to manifest our bigger vision and share it with the ever-changing Venice community. Things are now possible that were not possible before.”
Sandy Bleifer, part of the first ARTBLOCK, said organizers were overwhelmed by the initial public response — that people were thrilled to see inside the studios and have a chance to talk to the artists.
“We now have a network that is poised to respond to the accelerated gentrification of Venice that threatens the continuing usage of the studio space that has, for generations, accommodated artist studios,” Bleifer said.
ARTBLOCK participant John Mooney started Moonlight Glass in 1996. Located next to Beach Boys Racing on Hampton Drive, he teaches the art of glassblowing and creates original glass works.
“ARTBLOCK is taking Venice back to its future — as community enriches art, art enriches community,” Mooney said. “ARTBLOCK is all solution.”
In addition to noted ceramicist William Attaway, Ellwood T. Risk will also be showing work at the same complex. For over twelve years (in the 90s), he kept a Venice studio. Due to rising rents, he relocated to San Pedro. He has participated in the last two events and said it brought him back to his Venice days.
“It felt like all for one and one for all,” said Risk. “We were all young and hungry, and everybody seemed to be in the same boat for the most part … and that spirit was tangible.”
For the first time, Scott Mayer’s famed Venice home, the Lantern House, will be part of the event. Built in the early 1900s, the property consists of four bungalows surrounded by gardens, lanterns, antiques and art. Here the work of Aurelia Dumont, Marybeth Fama, Leonardo Ibanez and Jens Lucking will be on display.
Fama said visitors seemed delighted to see the studios, meet the artists and hang out in the relaxed party atmosphere — all for free.
“One guest described [ARTBLOCK] to me as a treasure hunt. Some people said there was so much to see it was hard to get to it all,” Fama said.
Artist Teresa Accardi said that being a part of the ARTBLOCK pushes her to create more. Nearby her studio on Sunday, the studio of artist Helen K. Garber is hosting a display by Venice Beach Book Arts.
Garber recently attended a class at Otis College of Art and Design taught by renowned book artist Rebecca Chamlee, where she met other artists who shared a passion for making handmade books.
Raised in Venice, Ara Bevacqua was part of the initial creation of ARTBLOCK along with his father, longtime Venice artist Alberto Bevacqua.
“Venice holds a wealth of talent in many mediums and techniques,” said Ara Bevacqua. “It is great to see so much of it in a day.”
Nearing its fourth outing, ARTBLOCK has evolved from a response to what many felt was rejection and blossomed into something incredibly positive and transformative.
The Venice ARTBLOCK Open Studio Tour takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, with locations bounded by Rose Avenue, Lincoln Boulevard, Washington Boulevard and the ocean. Pick up a map anywhere the ARTBLOCK flag is flying or visit veniceartblock.com.