Literature and art are safe at Beyond Baroque, Venice’s venerable center for the arts. Due to last-minute intervention by Los Angeles 11th District Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on February 29 to extend the Venice-based arts organization’s lease.
For several weeks, the Southern California arts community was in a state of suspense, as Beyond Baroque’s lease on the former Venice City Hall at 681 Venice Boulevard, approved in 1997, was due to expire on March 1. The organization’s lease, like that of other nonprofit organizations throughout Los Angeles, fell under a policy by which City Council representatives negotiate leases for nonprofit groups within their districts, which are then approved by the City Council.
According to Rosendahl’s office, several city agencies had considered amending the policy in order to prohibit low-cost leases for arts organizations. But the City has never acted officially to make the change.
The motion crafted by Rosendahl Chief of Staff Mike Bonin directs the Department of General Services to renew and extend the existing lease for 25 years, at the current rate of $1 per year. The paperwork should be completed within 30 days.
In exchange, Beyond Baroque will continue to provide services as an arts center and pay any costs needed to maintain, upgrade, and landscape the facility. Rosendahl stated in his announcement of the lease renewal: “Beyond Baroque is one of the last bastions of the spoken word in Los Angeles. It is appropriate that it maintain its home and its special relationship with the community of Venice, so long a haven for poets, artists, and writers.”
“It is a victory for poetry and the arts,” said Beyond Baroque Director Fred Dewey in a statement on Beyond Baroque’s website. “It is a victory for the preservation of history, the public realm, and the capacity for experiment. It is a rare triumph for the love of language, the written word, books, and the precious spark that community lends to all of us.”
Dewey credits the outpouring of concern from the public and from artists who sent letters, made phone calls, and “flooded the Internet” with posts urging everyone to contact Rosendahl for helping to save the venue for Beyond Baroque.
“We owe Councilman Bill Rosendahl of the 11th District, Los Angeles, a great debt of gratitude,” Dewey continued in his statement. “Please thank him and his Chief of Staff Mike Bonin for all they have done, and for all that they have now made possible. It was they who helped us all steer the ship safely into port.”Rosendahl and Bonin can be reached at [email protected]