Venice Art Walk and Auctions

Fifty bucks was the admission price for the Venice Art Walk and Auctions benefit for the Venice Family Clinic on Sunday. As I strolled down Abbot Kinney Boulevard with my Art Walk map and admission sticker on my chest, I wondered- had I not gained admittance "gratis" with my press pass - would this be worth fifty bucks? Sure it's for a good cause, but on a student's budget, there are many more affordable ways to see art in the LA area.

My Art Walk experience began at Westminster School on Abbot Kinney Blvd. In the playground the "Food Faire" provided a chance to sample the offerings of local restaurants. Festive live music was provided such as Susie Hanson's Latin Jazz Band, whose steel drum driven rhythms inspired a few toddlers to shake their booty.

Inside the school a silent auction featured over 400 artists with works in just about any medium and style imaginable: ceramics, oil paint, water color, pop-art, drawing, sculpture, cartoon, silk-screens, photography, and so on. Although opening bids of some artworks started in the $1000 plus range, many were priced more affordably, starting as low as $50. Artist Mark Farina is one of the artists who priced his silkscreen submission affordably to help it sell. Last year he priced a work at $200 that sold for $600. All proceeds benefit the Venice Family Clinic that was founded in 1970 to provide healthcare to low-income people, and those who otherwise lack private health insurance. Farina was happy to donate a work for the auction because a friend of his recently used the clinic's services, after unexpectedly losing her health insurance. She found her care at the Venice Family Clinic excellent, and was very grateful for its services. Farina said, "As a donating artist, to hear that from her, it just makes it feel good."

The auction is a great place to view works from a variety of artists, and shop for art if you are in the market. Next it was time to check out the "Walk" part of the event. The Art Walk heads south from Westminster School down Abbot Kinney Blvd. Numerous art-galleries line this section of Abbot Kinney, but only some were participating in the Art Walk. One didn't need an Art Walk sticker to browse these galleries, so I wondered what the draw of the Art Walk was. I followed an Art Walk sign that led me off Abbot Kinney to see if I could find out.

In an alley behind Abbot Kinney in the cozy, palm-shaded bungalow of Venice sculptor Jean Batiste, I found the answer. Jean Batiste had converted his home into a gallery for the day to display his works of exotic animal heads sculpted in bronze, stone, and wood. I asked a group gathered in Batiste's living room what drew them to the Art Walk. "For me its the artist's studios, to see where they actually work," said a man named Barry. Barry's friend Rick added that it's exciting to not only see their work, but how they live in their artwork.

Only by attending the Art Walk do you get the unique opportunity to visit the homes and studios of the artists involved. The Art Walk map guides you through quaint Venice neighborhoods to visit these homes and studios of artists that donated works for the auction. Not only do you get to see many beautiful homes decorated with original artwork, you get a chance to chat with the artist in a relaxed atmosphere. The artist Peter Bill amiably chatted with me in his studio about the inspiration for his work, and where he obtains the computer circuit boards on which he has rendered a series of oil paintings of bridges over the LA River.

All in all the Art Walk offered so many sights and experiences it would impossible to absorb it all in one day. I'll have to make sure I have fifty bucks set aside for next year so I can check out more of the interesting personal spaces of some of the many artists in the Venice community.

To view a slide show of the art walk click HERE