I keenly look forward to the day that the Venice Artwalk stops being a centerpiece in our conversations. The Venice Family clinic continues to be a noble and exemplary cause, but for decades brilliant cultural endeavors have been occurring in Venice entirely off the radar of Artwalk organizers.
Some see the Artwalk as a vehicle of prestige, something that connotes a certain status to participant artists, certain artists have seen the Artwalk as a great opportunity to receive a measure of publicity have people visit their studios, and make some sales. But bottom line, the Venice Artwalk is a vehicle to raise funds through art. Artwalk organizers have never to my knowledge had an agenda that included creating lasting contributions to the artistic community, not even in the sense of, “let’s give something back to this community,” that year after year is the vehicle we ride to raise our much needed funds. There has also always been the enormous schism between those who organize, participate and attend and those whom the raised funds actually help. For years I have watched the line that forms outside the clinic on Rose Avenue, it’s easy to guess that most of the folks that come for assistance have never been to the Artwalk. After 30 years it would seem that a cultural institution, even one that occurs one weekend a year as a tool for a social service endeavor, might address the connection between cultural and medical health. I don’t think the Venice Artwalk can do this unless it gets some help.
Help might come from the artistic community in Venice. We may not be too independent and strong right now, but at least it’s clear that we do have some sense of identity. Instead of being buffeted by higher powers and mega corporations that change the landscape we created ARTBLOCK. These are distracting times to be sure, but our role as artists and members of our community remains essentially the same. Venice artists are the means of production, we never needed the Artwalk to do what artists do, but the artwalk needs and relies on the vibrant power of art.
ARTBLOCK as a group has authority and experience. Some of the participating artists have been with the Artwalk for decades, the depth of the work and the manner of craft is beyond question. Others, like me, have had minimal participation in the Artwalk. Perhaps I have just been too busy to slow down and wave my arms at the organizers to be noticed. But I have always felt a sense of connection with the Family clinic, because after all we sometimes serve the same
community. I often make art precisely for the folks who stand in line to receive medical help at the clinic.
A physician runs a program out of the Venice clinic that works with torture survivors. Dr. Jose Quiroga is Chilean and was the last man to see Salvador Allende alive. We have occasionally worked together throughout the years. He is highly respected in Chile and internationally. Dr. Michael Rodriguez is a professor at UCLA and an expert in violence prevention. In the 80’s we lived together on Clubhouse Avenue. I was completing my MFA at UCLA and he was in Medical School. Over the years he has often chosen to attend the public at the clinic.
Many have perhaps forgotten that as a group we are formidable and that we can choose to make history. Venice artists are so much more than the Artwalk. Venice has grown up a bit more and at the very least it is clear that there is room for more in our cultural landscape and right on our block. Venice needs a real artwalk, one that is inclusive and has no agenda other than to let art flourish. We can easily continue to support the goals of the Venice Family clinic, but first we have to come out of the hypnotic spell that has some believing that the Artwalk is the sun in our cultural cosmos.
– Francisco Letelier