By Francisco Letelier & Marybeth Fama
As co-founders of ARTBLOCK and members of the steering committee for this event, we wanted the pieces we chose for our show to reflect the current concerns of our group. The larger purposes of ARTBLOCK (aside from putting on fun open studio events twice a year) are: to create a strong sense of community among the many artists in Venice, to empower us to interface directly with the public in our own way, and to draw attention to how our arts community makes Venice so unique.
Our neighborhood has gone through many transformations over time, from wetlands, to carnival attraction, to summer resort, to a community known for cultural and economic diversity and so on. Through all the changes Venice has retained a strong sense of diversity, creativity and life on the outer edge of Los Angeles. Those of us who have lived here for 30 years or more have never seen change happen as quickly as it is now. We are in a period of accelerating gentrification that is raising property values and bringing in a new, affluent population, attracted by our cool, arts-oriented, ocean-side community. We are starting to hear our funky artists’ haven being called “Silicon Beach.” Formerly affordable studios are being re-zoned and converted to packed restaurants, upscale boutiques and sparkling million-dollar condominiums, sold by realtors, ironically, as “artist lofts.”
While we are not against change, we would like the people of Los Angeles to consider the value of maintaining an artistic community in Venice, perhaps by designating an Arts District here, or requiring any new developments to provide a percentage of low income housing, or to set aside affordable studio spaces. Our show seeks to highlight the multi-cultural, one-of-a-kind beauty made in Venice by artists who may be in danger of being forced to leave the unique place they helped to make so appealing.
Above: Venice Artist, by Marybeth Fama