SPARC’s (Social and Public Art Resources Center’s) view, grounded in a social and politically spirited prism, is that murals are important.
“Murals are important because they provide a tool to memorialize a community’s history, its memory, an issue, a particular moment in time and, perhaps most importantly, give voice and image to communities that, oftentimes, are not part of civic dialogue,” says SPARC executive director Debra Padilla.
In doing all of the aforementioned, murals also beautify the surroundings. Venice has been fortunate to have murals added to our streetscapes that change dingy corners in highly trafficked locations into a pride of the neighborhood.
Two murals that were brought about by local residents are:
VENICE REVISITED, 2002; 600 Mildred Ave. — Ben Schick and Chris Bennett bought a building some considered an eyesore and the transformation since then, of both the market and the residential units, has brought a sense of cheer to the triangular corner at Mildred and Ocean Avenues.
Ben’s background is in architecture and construction.
“I saw it with that eye,” Ben says.
His eye also saw a long blank wall that cried out to be covered.
“I wanted something fun,” he says.
The vibrant colors of the structure resulted in a composition where each section plays its own role.
Garyk Lee was enlisted to design and paint the mural. Garyk had been friends with Ben and Chris since his days in the 1980s as a fashion designer on Robertson Boulevard and Chris’s days as a fashion model.
“I had a vision of all the different structures within that one building kind of forming the look of a village and then wrapping the architecture around to that long, unobstructed side so that it formed the depth in the village,” Garyk says.
“The happy colors turned it into a fairy-tale corner,” he adds.
Painting a canal as the focal point actually had separate meanings for Ben and Garyk.
Ben wanted to relate the corner to the canals that we know today, across the street.
Garyk, on the other hand, saw the canal as harkening back to the heyday of Abbot Kinney’s canals, many of which have been filled in. Characters were included to bring life to the mural.
“You see a nice dichotomy of people in Venice,” says Garyk. “That’s what I wanted to incorporate.”
The figures sitting in the window are caricatures of the Kims, who once operated the market.
Interestingly, although the market is named Kim’s, a Kim family has not run it for at least 25 years.
The previous owner, Mr. Choi, who had been there for a quarter of a century, sold the lease after Ben renovated the store. It has a whole new ambiance now.
The merchandise and clientele are different. For instance, Mr. Choi had been selling only wine that had screw tops.
“Affluent people are here in the canals now,” Ben told him. “You can get wines with corks and people will come to your door and be happy with it.”
Garyk sees similarities to the European, old-world way of living that he feels are prominent in Venice, such as living spaces above a business.
“It gives a little bit of a city feeling in a more quaint, smaller area,” Garyk says. “That’s what is so great about Venice.”
For Ben, he has now come full circle.
“In my 20s, I lived next door to the market,” Ben says. “It’s come 360 degrees. I coveted the Venice Canals.
“I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they love the mural and building and that it has cheered up the corner,” he adds.
REMEMBERING VENICE BEACH 1913, 2003; 1500 Main St. — Anna Moyseyev recognized the need for more senior services, so she purchased a building, renovated it and established the Oceanview Adult Day Health Care Center, with programs providing a complement of health, therapeutic and social services to those at risk of being placed in a nursing home.
Another important aspect of its services is that the center allows family members and caregivers — the hidden victims of aging — a worry-free opportunity to retain their own quality of life.
The previous home of the Sushi Academy, the center is on the corner of Main and Market Streets and has two wonderful, long walls.
Anna thought the walls would be perfect for a mural and she specifically wanted to recall Market Street in the days when it was Alderbaran Canal.
Anna was familiar with the work of David Legaspi III, who donated murals to a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District mural project in support of raising awareness of the arts for children.
David liked the idea of doing a mural for a senior center.
“I like murals that have a meaning to them,” David says. “They can have historical, social and educational themes. It’s historical and social with senior citizens.”
David researched photographs and postcards of Venice in 1913 and came up with a composite of many images.
The mural incorporates such early Venice structures as the bath house and aquarium. Even the two-story gray house on the other side of the alley is shown as it was there in 1913 and painted yellow.
Some of the figures will look familiar. There are distinct images of Abbot Kinney, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Henry Ford, from a 1914 photograph, is shown with a 1913 Ford automobile.
Some figures may not look familiar to us. Anna’s parents are featured in front of the main door. You will also see neighborhood dogs — Toby the Rottweiler, Drew the bulldog and Rita the mutt.
“People wanted me to put their dogs in the mural,” David says.
“The response from the community was very positive. It came from all walks of life, from a homeless woman pushing her cart, to an area architect driving by in his Jaguar asking how I did the perspective, to even other muralists who were complimentary.”
There were endless compliments on how that corner has come to life and they enjoy going by. The homeless woman said, “Bless your heart for doing this. I love walking by here and just looking at that bridge. It looks so real. I just want to move there.”