Muscle Beach. Abbott Kinney. The Canals. West side enclave Venice is known for being diverse and eclectic – a neighborhood where anything and everything goes. Nothing personifies the area's free spirit more than its arts community.
Recently, in response to the Open Studio Tour being eliminated from the Venice Artwalk local stalwarts and newbie hipsters banded together to create ArtBlock, an artist run coalition dedicated to supporting and promoting each other and the local art community. On May 4 th, they opened up their studios for a tour of more than 30 work spaces.
What separated this event from other Los Angeles artwalks (specifically Downtown's monthly affair) was its homegrown vibe. Family and friends lounging on studio couches. Homey picnic set-ups in backyards replete with buckets of beer and hand-made decorations. A camaraderie between artists and guests that made the art feel accessible. And work spaces in a variety of unexpected places – nestled behind an auto repair shop, tucked at the end of a row of bungalows and even on the bottom floor of a chic duplex. It's an eye-opening view into how diverse the arts local arts scene actually is. ArtBlock artist Pamela Weir-Quinton sums it up best on the coalition's website, “It's amazing how creatives are tucked away in all the nooks and crannies of Venice, invisible to the naked eye.“
Weir-Quinton's woodshop is in a shared warehouse-like space. Along side her large scale wood sculptures visitors could peruse the work of her husband, famed logo and fashion illustrator Gregory Weir-Quinton's. The duo was more than happy to answer questions, let locals take a ride on one of Pamela's whimsical rocking horses or give a tour and explanation of the machinery in the woodshop.
Just down the block was another shared space that offered up everything from photojournalist Margaret Malloy's color pictures depicting local flavor to multi-talent (and long-time Venice resident) William Attaway's large-scale sculptures and Picasso-like paintings in bright beachy colors.
Across the street, visitors could walk inside the Gypsy Trails Mobile Gallery to find a small selection of unique wall art, including David Cedeno's painted skateboards. A food truck and a wood-burning pizza stand gave this leg of the tour a block party vibe.
Other highlights included:
-Curio Studio & Collection by Anne Faith Nicholls, a tiny gallery that showcases a new wave of artists including Nicholls own whimsical paintings and haunting metal animal sculptures by ceramicist Molly Schulps.
-The wonderful contrast between John Mooney's showroom – a bright airy space favoring clean lines and fresh neutrals that showed off his beautiful glass creations. And his office, which was the complete opposite – a cramped room chock full of CD's, an old piano, an overstuffed leather loveseat and trinkets galore. It was the perfect window into what goes on behind the finished product.
-Though deceptively simple looking, Jean Edelstein's series of dance and performance paintings oozed with the complexity of rhythm and movement.
Since the artwalk was spread out over such a large portion of Venice, buses were available to take visitors between destinations. That said, should the event happen again, it's worth hoofing it between studios just to take in the copious amount of street art in and around the area.
For more information on Venice ArtBlock, visit veniceartblock.com.