Both art school and gallery, Venice Arts is celebrating its 15th year of finding and nurturing young local artists. The organization provides low-income kids with the mentorship of talented adults who volunteer their time and knowledge to teach classes in photography, digital arts, media arts, filmmaking, and social art projects, all free to the students.
According to Lynn Warshafsky, Executive Director and co-founder of Venice Arts, “Any low-income child from any area can come. We get kids from Hollywood, Highland Park. But they mostly come from Venice and Mar Vista.” The students’ ages range from six to 18.
At its recent 15th anniversary party, Venice Arts also celebrated its move to a new venue at 1702 Lincoln Boulevard. The new space has “1600 square feet,” says Warshafsky, and is “twice as big” as the former space across the street. With a gallery and digital lab, it will provide work and exhibit space for the older students. Some classes and administrative functions will continue at Venice Arts’ other location, the Vera Davis Center on California Avenue.
The party featured an exhibit of student work, including photographs, digital paintings, animation, live-action films, and comic strips. A look around revealed that the level of artistic sophistication of these students was amazingly high.
Flexible Reality, a black and white photograph by Jose Rodriguez, featured a delicate composition that appeared to be white wings on a black background, recalling some of Georgia O’Keefe’s floral photographs. Rodriguez, 12, produced the photo in his Intermediate Photography class.
Esme Jackson, age 17, created “Lamez,” a color photograph of a reclining young girl. The digital color effects were the product of Jackson’s work in Advanced Photography.
Venice Arts’ photography students work with digital SLR cameras on their class projects. They edit their own photographs on the computer, and participate in group critiques to improve their work.
While every class has several adult mentors, a “youth mentor” program allows ambitious students to help their peers. Kristen Ramirez, 15, recently served as Youth Mentor for a photography project to document Lincoln Boulevard. The project was on display at the celebration and featured photos of everything from street signs to graffiti to local residents captured for the camera.
Ramirez told the Mirror that she studied photography for two years but wanted to continue her studies by switching to filmmaking. “I was asked if I could mentor the younger kids,” she explained. In regard to the high quality of her kids’ creations, she said: “Our kids are really good. They know what to look for because we have great mentors. We just tell them what to focus on.”
During a public presentation, Kristin and her friend Alex thanked their adult mentor Pablo, who taught Digital Arts for three and a half years at Venice Arts. Pablo will still be visiting occasionally, but he will also be teaching at a new project that Venice Arts is entering into with USC Annenberg.
Pablo noted that Venice Arts’ film program, which he taught in, has the kids writing, directing, acting, and producing their own films “almost on the level of a college film school.” In the Digital Lab room, kids, parents, and mentors watched some of these films, while animated shorts played on a computer in the main gallery.
The celebration marked the end of the spring semester for many students and there were emotional good-byes between some kids and their mentors. But other students will be returning for the summer session, which begins June 28. For information on enrollment, call 310.578.1745.