One of the positive aspects of working with community members is that you get to know people who were only familiar by name before and you get to know those who you had never met.
One such person is Lynn Warshafsky.
I had followed the saga of Venice Arts Mecca splintering into the Venice Dream Team and VeniceArts in the ’90s.
Each went on to provide its own positive artistic environment for children.
Lynn, founding board president of Venice Arts Mecca, became executive director of VeniceArts.
It is a position befitting her.
When the Venice Centennial Steering Committee first met in April 2004, a primary point of business was to secure a fiscal receiver to take in and pay out monies that were donated for centennial events.
After a number of months of going back and forth it was decided that VeniceArts would be the most appropriate and able group to handle this task.
Lynn attended Steering Committee meetings but kept in the background.
She has really never been given credit for the hours of work that she put in to make the Centennial celebration successful.
Insurance was necessary for each event.
After the committee chairs submitted rates for their events, the total amount struck Lynn as too high and she decided to get a better deal from VeniceArts’ broker by combining all the events together.
“It saved the Centennial several thousand dollars,” she says.
“It really helped when we were working on a shoe string budget.”
Now, procuring an insurance policy may sound easy, but when you have numerous people pushing paperwork and working at their own speed, the result can be quite to the contrary.
“Our broker was incredible,” says Lynn. “It was a nightmare, but we pulled it off.”
This doesn’t take into consideration the proverbial 11th hour holdup that occurred the day before an event when it was decided that product insurance was needed for a parking lot even though no product would be sold on the premises.
It was a tense couple of hours until Lynn convinced the person in charge to do a one-time waiver.
She was a hero to a lot of people.
Since the beginning of the year, Lynn has faithfully communicated by e-mail to remind event chairs to get in their budgets, to update those budgets, and to do everything else we were supposed to do.
E-mails were sent frantically during the insurance crises, all to keep us in the loop of the progress.
“It’s hard enough to manage money within an organization where you have staff and standard policies and what not and you want adequate controls because it is public money, money from grants and individuals, but you don’t want it so cumbersome that you can’t be flexible and responsive,” she says.
“But with the Centennial, it was even more complex because everyone was a volunteer.
“It wasn’t an employee of mine, where I could say you have to remember certain things, which I did all the time anyway.
“I think some people who don’t deal in this world found confusing what to me seemed basic.”
It may be argued that VeniceArts was the only group to be paid so why tout Lynn’s endeavors. It’s normal to pay a fiscal receiver.
VeniceArts sometimes does it for artists who receive a grant.
It’s money in, money out.
“The Centennial was different,” says Lynn.
“This was fiscal sponsorship.
“We had a legal and fiduciary responsibility. We had to have a whole other set of fiscal procedures in place.
“It’s much more complicated than money in, money out, which I think some people didn’t understand.
“Let’s put it this way. For my time and our bookkeeper’s time and our accountant’s time, if we paid our costs through the fee we were lucky.”
Lynn’s share of the fee certainly wouldn’t cover what she does when she puts on another one of her hats.
Since 1990 she has had her own consulting business called “Organizational Development Consulting,” mainly dealing with non-profit organizations.
She covers everything from board development to strategic planning.
Her graduate degree is in clinical psychology and she used to have a clinical practice as a therapist.
Now she puts her knowledge to use with organizations that are dealing with conflicts like team building, conflict resolution and interpersonal issues.
Lynn is most known in Venice for her work as executive director of VeniceArts, a group that has photography as its core program.
Other programs include digital arts, animation, web design and media arts.
“In all our programs the focus is really on kids’ voices,” she says, “kids telling their own stories.”
There is a story within a story here.
“Venice Through Our Eyes” was the first photo program sponsored by Venice Arts Mecca.
Five Venice neighborhoods were documented into a black and white visual of the community.
It was patterned after “Shooting Back,” the same kind of visual documentary done by underprivileged children in Washington D.C. under the guidance of a well-known photographer by the name of Jim Hubbard.
Long story short, a number of years later Jim, unknown personally to Lynn at the time, relocated to Venice, then became creative director of VeniceArts.
Venice has been home to Lynn since 1980.
“It was a fabulous funky beach community,” she says.
“It was an extraordinary thing that I could actually afford to live near the ocean. Those were the days when Venice was unbelievably affordable.
“I bought my house in 1986. I was one of the lucky ones.”
A small cubicle at the Vera Davis Center is the administrative headquarters of VeniceArts.
Last year they were fortunate to take over the lease of the former space of Jean Pritchard’s My Black and White Lab at 1809 Lincoln Blvd. that now features a gallery and darkroom.
There have already been numerous exhibits.
For more information on VeniceArts check out their Web site at www.venice-arts.org