Venice attracted a generation of writers, poets, artists and musicians in the 1950s and 1960s when it became a west coast magnet for "weirdos". It still has a reputation for counter culture but there is concern that the recent rise in housing prices will drive out the alternative scene.
Venice Beach – Been There

Venice Beach and the spirits that never die

Photo by Sergio Pitamitz

Venice Beach – Been There Venice Beach and the spirits that never die

The Venice Art Crawl is a quarterly event that is exactly what the name implies: a pub and art crawl. Four Thursday evenings a year, the local bars, restaurants and galleries open their doors to art enthusiasts.

Marissa Charles
Marissa Charles Travel Writer

When I go to the March event during my trip to Los Angeles, I leave my car with the valet outside the Hama Sushi restaurant on Windward Circle near the beach. I regret the decision later when a music-blaring, double-decker bus crammed with giggling travellers drives by. I learn that Red Bull offers a service for patrons so they can get from one end of the street crawl to the other. It sounds a lot more sociable than making my way there alone.

I pop into the restaurant to find out more information about the crawl and the hostess hands me a map. Twenty-five venues, each showcasing the work of at least one artist, are dotted around the route sandwiched between Washington Boulevard and Rose Avenue. If you draw a straight line between the two streets, it is roughly 1.7 miles long.

One of the first places I go to is the Shulamit Gallery on North Venice Boulevard, near the beach. It is a three-story modern building and this event is just as much a house party as it is an exhibition. Displayed on the ground floor is the work of Doni Silver Simons and her de-noue-ment exhibit, which includes reams of fabric, some unraveled and left unwoven in a state of disrepair. In a darkened room out back is a presentation by Iranian artist Pouya Afshar, who has projected three moving images on to the walls of a small, darkened project space.

The kitchen is buzzing with people sipping wine and eating cheese, crackers and grapes. I climb the wrought iron stairs to the roof, where a young couple and their toddler son are seated around a fire pit, eating and chatting.

I look back over the rooftops of Venice. To my left is the Pacific Ocean, which I can just about make out in the twilight. It seems indicative of the atmosphere; this is a communal endeavor, a regular event where locals venture out to socialize and feast on food and art.

And so the night continues, with each venue having its own vibe. The presentations are as varied as the people who – despite the changes – continue to populate Venice. The Dogtown Artists United exhibit becomes my favorite. To get to it I have to do something I would otherwise never do after dark as a single woman in Venice: cross the boardwalk, go onto the sand and walk up over to the skate park on the beach.

In the hollowed-out concrete curves where skateboarders normally twirl and fly through the air is a variety of pop art. Some of the pieces are decorated skateboards. (One says: “Give blood. Go skateboarding.”) Others are large pieces of canvas that cover everything from the dangers of pollution to parodying plastic surgery.

My last stop of the night is at the Venice Breeze Suites, an old apartment building converted into a beachfront hotel. After visiting an art installation in a tiny one-bedroom unit, I head upstairs to the rooftop that is again crammed full with locals drinking boxed wine, listening as a folk singer strums her guitar. The spirits that made Venice Beach what it is hang in the air.

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The crowds enjoying year-round good weather have long attracted street entertainers to Venice and the subsequent standards are among the highest in the world. A 2008 ordnance from the City of Los Angeles that controlled buskers and vendors was defeated in court in 2010, giving rise to the risk that commercial acts might force out amateur ones. Photo by Ian Shive / Alamy

Ian Shive

Ian Shive

Agency
Alamy

The crowds enjoying year-round good weather have long attracted street entertainers to Venice and the subsequent standards are among the highest in the world. A 2008 ordnance from the City of Los Angeles that controlled buskers and vendors was defeated in court in 2010, giving rise to the risk that commercial acts might force out amateur ones.

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