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Erase Venice?

Erase Venice Beach?

Welcome to Venice Beach, where art meets crime! Or does it? If you are local then you will recognize that slogan. Perhaps you can even be seen sporting a t-shirt with this mantra. When I moved into the hood a few years ago I was totally cognizant of what I was getting into. I chose to live in this bizarre astral portal after being hazed by the boardwalk; performing my original rap music, teaching yoga to the homeless youth, and even doing nude body paint and performance art improv with the vendors/bums. 

In the past few years the phenomenon of Silicon Beach has emerged in direct contrast with the artsy bohemian utopia of this liberal beachside bastion. It’s big bank take little bank as a few high rolling developers snatch up the most viable assets this beach city has to offer, the Real Estate. In that wake we as a community are losing valuable and historic mural art pieces; the post office historic mural art, and the huge portal mural at Windward & Pacific are just two of the largest murals to be “erased” in the past year, either removed or painted over in the name of the new building owners rights. 

Just because its your Right does not make it Right.

I actually agree, the owner of a building has the right to make changes, to paint it as they see fit, even if that means painting over a work of art that is widely enjoyed by all. However, from my personal observations and the word on the street,the City Council of Venice is pushing forward much of this “cleaning up” including removing bus stops on Windward just a few days before painting over the  large scale mural across the street. Case and point, that “Venice Gate Portal” was one of the biggest murals in Venice Beach Located at Pacific & Windward just south of the iconic Venice Sign.

It appears the City of Venice is at odds with its own life blood, the creative community.

Laws are in place that could and should protect the artists rights regarding their creations, such as written notice 30 days prior to changes/removal of art, however time and again no such notice has been given. This is where the city of Venice and new building owners are violating the good will of our community. Taking place amidst the redevelopment of Venice Beach there is what reads like a total disconnect. Why is the city council deciding what is worthy of preservation or modification amidst these blatant commercial aims. And the City is not going to miss a beat this time, getting in on the action of there “iconic” location where so much filming and art is made.

I first saw evidence of this palpable agenda when a trade mark notice was erected under the beloved Venice Beach sign. You better not take a photo of that and try to use it in a commercial venture. Or else I expect you will be sued. So I asked, is the Hollywood sign trademarked?  Is the Eiffel Tower…No. But the beloved hanging letters “V.E.N.I.C.E” – hands off!

Talking to A Brick Wall

And what of these walls? The mural art of Venice Beach is certainly a focal point of interests to the 14 million visitors that pass through this, second to Disney Land, largest tourist  trap in California. I have watched for years as one after the next they line up to snap a photo in front of the bright phosphorescence of our organic living, out door art museum. But recently, it’s the City Council dictating what art stays and goes around here…and my prediction is 3 to 5 years from now this place will be erased.

The mural that serves as case and point here was located at Windward Ave. Local latino artists Ivotopia and Marioe1 were commissioned to design this mural as recently as summer of 2013. Every step of the way the building owners approved the project and bought the supplies needed to create the vibrant work of art. Since its completion, the mural was featured in many videos to include Coldplay’s music video, A Sky Full Of Stars, where incidentally no credit was given to the artist. Meanwhile the mural was featured in television shows and served as a welcome to the many visitors who stood in droves to snap a shot of the mural. I was easy to see why people were so taken with this piece, which had over 13 angels, and three big benevolant beings that in the words of artist Ivo “Were here to raise the vibration of the entire city ” a sentiment that was clearly infused into each brush stoke. Even a month ago the entire piece was whitewashed over with bright white paint, the artists took it in stride saying “It’s okay, they can never erase it. The energy still lives underneath the white paint.”

Why was this massive and engaging mural art erased? A little investigation revealed needing to make a decision in time for a tax credit situation. Another why led to the urging of the City Council who claimed that “the mural was making the energy at that corner too crazy.” According to the artist themselves, they were in the process of submitting a bid and artistic renderings reflecting the new parameters the building owners now desired. However, after getting a quote for the cost of the materials alone – art over $25,000 the owners made a snap decision. Rather than responding to the artist,  within a few days the choice was made to just paint over the whole mural with bright flat white paint. Within several hours of rolling the wall, the mural that took months to create, was erased. I thought people would be interested to know, there is a perceptible, hostile manner in which these changes are being carried out.

I called the Beach Head, but they never responded. I ask my neighbors what they thought, but blank stares or contempt for “the man” were all I found. I see flyers around town that say “Save Venice Art” but no web site, phone number or identifiable contact information is present. Amidst this highly unorganized group of artists it seems the City of Venice has elected itself the representative of the arts community. I did a google search, but I have not been able to find these local stories in the bigger media conversation. I am committed to documenting the real folk and street art of the Venice Beach community, before it is all erased.

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