‘Before They Go’ documents Venice artists and their workspaces as the threat of displacement looms large

By Christina Campodonico

Venice artist Flavio Bisciotti transformed his studio into an art installation after it was gutted in a freak fire last year

Photographer Debbie Zeitman has lived in Venice since 1985, but it wasn’t until recently that she started focusing her camera on the people and places around her — namely artists and their studios.

When she heard last summer that more than a dozen artists would be forced to leave their workspaces at 361 Vernon Ave. to make way for renovations that would raise rents, pricing many of them out, Zeitman went to work.

“Time was of the essence,” Zeitman told me at the time. “I just quickly said, ‘I’d like to photograph all of you in your spaces before you have to leave — if nothing else just to preserve a little slice of the memory here.’”

That got the ball rolling for “Before They Go,” an Instagram account where Zeitman posts portraits of Venice artists in their studios and a story about each artist. She calls it a “tapestry of the diversity of Venice.”

Performance artist Amy Kap’s space showcases her signature black-and-white stripes motif

Printed versions of these posts are now on display at Wabi Sabi as part of the EAT ART initiative she’s co-founded with Venice artist Barbara Lavery. Zeitman hopes that the photographs inspire onlookers to appreciate the creativity of Venice artists, the beauty of their studios and acknowledge their endangerment in the area’s high-priced real estate and rental markets.

“As these spaces disappear and the artists disappear, it’s a two-fold loss, because the spaces are unique as well as the individuals,” says Zeitman. “If people take the time to read their stories along with the photos, they’ll recognize the diversity of the creators who have come to Venice and realize how important it is to keep them here.”

“Before They Go” is on display for a limited time at Wabi Sabi, 1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. Catch it before it’s gone. Follow @beforetheygo on Instagram, or email iholdthismoment@gmail.com to recommend a photo subject.