Magazine article Sunset

Beyond the Stereotypes in Venice

Magazine article Sunset

Beyond the Stereotypes in Venice

Article excerpt

An annual art stroll and ongoing history tours get you into the studios and onto the streets of this classic beachside town

"So how did venice get so wacky?" When a coworker asked me that question recently, I was a bit taken aback. I mean, wacky? That's kind of a loaded term, although based on many of my experiences in the Southern California beach town, it isn't entirely off the mark.

Still, feeling obliged to enlighten his perspective, I dived into a vaguely academic history of Venice - from its origins as a canal-crossed arts utopia designed by founder Abbot Kinney, Jr., through its counterculture days in the 1950s and 1960s, and on to its present as a haven for artists and architects.

Eccentric. A nexus. Not wacky.

He looked at me rather blankly, then said, "I was out there once, and a guy asked me if I would pay him $100 to paint the address on the curb in front of every house in the country. Then he tried to trip me. When I didn't fall, I think he was disappointed."

Clearly, my capsule history had done little to counteract his impression of Venice as just one big urban sideshow. With that, I recommended a pair of tours that celebrate the best of Venice's traditions without candy-coating its complexities or exploiting its extremes.


"Say, what are all these people doing around here, anyway?"

This question came from a teenager in Venice after I had wandered off from the main route during the annual Venice Art Walk. That's the event when many area artists open their studios and reveal just why Venice remains such an important creative center for Southern California.

I explained this to him, probably lapsing again into a vaguely academic tone. Like my coworker, he looked at me blankly, then declared, "Art? There ain't no art around here."

His perception revealed how communities can bump up against one another yet remain totally remote. …

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