Tucked behind an auto shop parking lot on Lincoln Boulevard is Amiga Wild — almost invisible from the main drag but leaving an indelible mark on the Venice arts community with craft workshops, mini-concerts, taco nights and monthly art shows since December 2017.
The low-key lifestyle boutique is an airy oasis populated by succulents and perfumed by the scents of artisan soaps and candles. Its proprietors are Venice native Sadie Gilliam and transplant Alisun Franson, jewelry designers who found alignment in their aesthetic tastes (“earthy, hippie, but not dirty!” says Gilliam) and business goals of creating a space to showcase the work of local makers.
“The goal has always been to be a community art hub,” says Gilliam, 37. She’s the creator of Freedumb Founded jewelry and began a previous iteration
of Amiga with Lincoln & Rose blogger Nicole Reed before partnering with Franson.
“We just want to create this little friendly pocket … where there’s safety and there’s also community and we’re representing artists, says Gilliam. “If these little pockets of pretty start popping up, there’s more potential and possibility.”
Creating a beautifully curated space on Lincoln is important to Gilliam. Growing up in Venice when it was a lot rougher around the edges, she remembers trailing her artist father Edward Gilliam around the boardwalk in the ’80s to help him touch up his murals — sometimes he’d incorporate a gang member or two into a mural just to keep the peace — as well as her mother forbidding her from biking down certain streets in the neighborhood. Lincoln was one of them.
“It wasn’t because it was so busy, it was because it was so cuckoo,” Gilliam recalls. Now she enjoys being able to welcome kids and parents into her shop, especially since an independent toy store will soon be opening next door.
Franson, a New York native who founded her jewelry line Beatrice Holiday (which upcycles old bicycle parts into fashion-forward pieces) in Colorado before moving to Venice nine years ago, appreciates the “transient, outgoing and artistic” kinship between her old home of Boulder and her adopted one — “I feel like they’re sister cities in a way,” she says — and how Amiga has allowed her to plant roots in Venice even after relocating to the outskirts of Playa Vista.
“I kind of got disenchanted when I had to move from here because I couldn’t afford the rent anymore,” she says, “so this has been a really great opportunity to come back into Venice, because I feel Lincoln is the new Abbot Kinney in a way, but actually better.”
Like a grafted plant, Franson and Gilliam have cultivated Amiga Wild into a place where new and old Venice can meet and commingle.
“I know a bunch of old skaters and surfers and then the new families,” says Gilliam. “There’s always a mixture. Each brings a totally different demographic.”
— Christina Campodonico
Photo by Courtnay Robbins