Stephen Longfellow Fiske has been a familiar face in Venice since 1975.
You may have seen him walking his dog, Bodhi, or you may remember him performing in his early days at the Comeback Inn, a vegetarian restaurant and bar on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. As a guitarist and songwriter during the years in between, he has performed in different local venues and all over the country.
His other talents include recording artist and producer. Currently, you can find Stephen putting together events, collectively called “The Gathering” — which include concerts, lectures, discussion groups and dance — at the Blankenship Ballet Company at 132 Brooks Ave. on Sunday evenings.
In the early 1990s, Stephen wrote a book entitled “The Art of Peace,” which is a philosophical discussion on how to live peacefully on our planet.
“It’s kind of a handbook on how to be a peacemaker,” he says.
It incorporates his social, political, environmental and spiritual focus based on his dedication to peace, environmental and humanitarian concerns.
A “child of the 60s,” Stephen was involved in the movements of that time — civil rights, anti-war, peace, natural foods, natural childbirth, human rights and environmental concerns.
“All of those issues and many more were influential and impacted our culture and many of those movements are now part of the mainstream,” he says. Vegetarianism and yoga are examples.
“When I first became involved with vegetarianism it was very subculture, as was yoga. In the late 1960s and early 1970s yoga was not something mainstream, but now, of course, everywhere you go there are yoga studios. It’s trendy.”
When Earth Day started in 1970, there was lead in paint, smog in cities and poison in pesticides. Stephen got involved in the first Santa Monica Earth Day LA by being the emcee of the sound stage (run by solar energy), booking talent and performing. It is an annual festival with about 60 eco-friendly booths featuring business and services, plus entertainment. This year in April, a second festival was added on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.
Another addition this year will be the First Annual Venice Eco-Fest on Saturday, June 28th. It was Stephen’s idea to bring green to Venice and he is the producer.
“I wanted Earth Day LA to consider moving from the Santa Monica (Third Street) Promenade to Venice Beach,” he says. “The promenade is an enclosed concrete space. You can’t really feel the earth there.
“On Venice Beach you have the open air, the sun, the sand and ocean. You can feel the presence of the earth. Plus, Venice is always a hotbed of progressive thinking and Los Angeles, itself, is a much bigger opportunity to have Earth Day be in a venue that would attract a lot more people and a lot more attention.”
The name has been changed to incorporate and expand the Venice Fest of last year put on by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. This way, Santa Monica keeps Earth Day LA but will also participate in the Venice festival and be a co-sponsor along with the Venice chamber.
The festival is an attempt to raise consciousness and allow people an opportunity to see an alternative to the way we’ve been living.
“It’s critical,” says Stephen. “The main intent here is to move into a new paradigm, which is when you think green, you think beneficently and altruistically towards the future, and it’s about sustaining a healthy world and a healthy environment for our future generations. And it’s away from exploiting and raping and pillaging and destroying, and taking from the earth rather than seeing ourselves as caretakers and stewards of an eco-system that is common to us all.
“That is where human beings can really meet on a common ground of the earth itself. This is where we can really connect and build bridges across our differences because we all breathe the same air and drink the same water and our lives are sustained by the fragile eco-system.”
Stephen cites Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” published in 1962, about how a courageous woman took on the chemical industry and raised important questions about humankind’s impact on nature and John Muir’s concern for forming national parks in the late 1800s.
“There’s always been a concern about the fragile nature of our environment and what we are doing to it,” he says.
Most change — especially when it impacts a great number of people — happens gradually.
“What has always changed history has been a collective consciousness coalescing into a critical mass then creating that change out of the critical mass,” says Stephen.
He cites examples of women earning the right to vote, civil rights legislation, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the falling of the Berlin Wall. We could also add the acceptance of interracial marriage and interethnic marriage. The question is not if same-sex marriage will become universally acceptable, but when.
The environmental movement is still happening too.
“It’s really a new movement when you consider the long history and the advanced start that the Industrial Revolution had,” says Stephen. The Industrial Revolution was a period of rapid industrial growth causing a radical shift in focus from agriculture to industry during the late 1700s and early 1800s and was a tremendous expansion of our technologies and resources.
Although new developments in technology have been considered, for the most part, progress, we now are now seeing people understand and appreciate new ways to advance our technologies and resources to help our eco-system. The Venice Eco Fest will help educate the public.
“We need to do all we can to preserve and to conserve and take care of the life support system that sustains us all,” says Stephen.
The Venice Eco Fest will feature performers and environmental speakers, green businesses and environmental organizations, a food court with organic and healthy food, as well as an outdoor art gallery and interactive children’s art/play area.
For more information, (310) 396-8205.