Students collaborate during an open video workshop at Venice Arts

Students collaborate during an open video workshop at Venice Arts

Viral Venice Videos contest sets the creative table at Hal’s Bar & Grill

By Kathy Leonardo

The venerable Hal’s Bar & Grill on Abbot Kinney Boulevard already mixes old-school charm and a bustling bar with melodious jazz (on Sundays and Mondays) and the work of renowned artists gracing the walls, but there is a new generation of talent in town.

Through Sept. 15, Hal’s is sponsoring Venice Viral Videos, a contest encouraging students (elementary- to college-age) to submit 30-second videos inspired by pieces from its ongoing food-themed exhibit.

A longtime supporter of the arts, the restaurant recently renovated its upstairs dining room as an exhibition space dubbed the Upstairs Gallery at Hal’s. The inaugural exhibit, “A Taste for Art,” includes 25 works that include iconic Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup cans and a nod to Rob Reiner’s classic deli scene in “When Harry Met Sally.”

Young artists are being asked to create videos reacting to one of the works in the exhibit.

“A Taste for Art” includes painting, printmaking, sculpture and film and is curated by V-Scape (Venice and Surrounding Communities Arts, Performance and Events), which has previously led several student outreach projects.

“The idea isn’t new … just a lot bigger,” said V-Scape cofounder Aldis Browne. “V-SCAPE sponsored its first student competition for short videomakers at Venice High School in conjunction with the Other Venice Film Festival in 2007.”

Among contest jurors are Elysa Voshell, associate director of the nonprofit Venice Arts, and Mark Farina, head of the video department at Otis College of Art & Design.

“I think storytelling and the sharing of a student”s personal artistic vision is incredibly positive. It helps them open up and get more comfortable in this overly hyped town,” Farina said.

The Venice Arts outreach program runs classes in documentary photography for low-income students. Venice Arts prodigy Jocelyn Ramirez recently received a fellowship from Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life.

“Media is so powerful. I think I can really do something to change the way people look at things,” she said.

V-Scape’s Browne said that with art budget cutbacks, these sorts of private art opportunities are critical.

“If this contest changes only one life or leads to a single career, it will be a resounding success,” he said.

With that in mind, Hal’s and V-Scape have selected the Boys and Girls Clubs of Venice as the event’s featured nonprofit.

“Art provides the space and tools to learn the strength of imagination,” said Lalo Marquez, art director at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Venice. “All one needs is the right environment and inspiration. When the creative button is pressed, masterpieces of one’s life present themselves.”

Marquez teaches the youngsters how to create through a variety of mediums such as drawing, sketching, clay, crayon, watercolor, oils, pastels and collage. Exhibitions are mounted every three months, and families and the community are invited to attend.

“Art is important to me because it is a way for me to express myself and keep myself busy in creative, constructive ways,” said 13-year-old Elijah Mciver, who has been a part of the club for six years.

Winners of the Venice Viral Videos contest will be revealed at the Sept. 17 opening of the next exhibit for the Upstairs Gallery at Hal’s, featuring the work of Santa Monica artist Michael C. McMillen.

Prizes include dinner for four at Hal’s.

“Since Hal’s opened 27 years ago, we have had a wonderful relationship with the art community,” said Hal’s co-owner Don Novack.

And there’s good reason for that: “Art is a fine compliment to food,” Novack said.

For contest guidelines, visit View pieces from “A Taste for Art” at Hal’s Bar & Grill is at 1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice. (310) 396-3105;