Seeking new canvas for Venice art scene
The community once was a haven for visual artists, but newcomers have been priced out.
Venice of the 1960s was a raw and sometimes violent place, home to drunks, a couple of greasy spoons and plentiful cheap lodging. It appealed to the down and out, elderly Jews who were longtime residents and a cluster of artists who appreciated an enclave they could afford to call home.
“It was no man’s land . . . with no place to go and nothin’ to do,” said Billy Al Bengston, 72, a Venice-based artist who found himself part of the ’60s California Pop Art movement.
Today, Venice is an eclectic play land, especially for those willing and able to absorb the cost of a meal at Joe’s or a bamboo-and-cotton Japanese Tshirt at Salt or a lithograph at Hamilton Press Gallery.
Over the years, rising real estate prices have resulted in an exodus of struggling artists, who are opting for decidedly un-Venice-like venues such as Torrance, Inglewood, El Segundo and San Pedro, where affordable space is still available.
PIONEER: Laddie John Dill, working at his studio, and others hope to find affordable space on the Westside where emerging artists and older mentors could create a new “Venice art colony.”