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Venice Arts Celebrates 15 Years:

Venice Arts has been mentoring low-income youths in the visual arts since its founding in 1993. On October 25, Venice Arts will celebrate 15 years of service to the young, the community, and to art, with a benefit dinner and party.

The dinner will honor two “angels” who have contributed to Venice Arts, Eugene Ahn and Dr. Neal Baer.

Ahn, of Wigglefish Communication Design, is the creator of Venice Arts’ interactive youth arts website Beyond MySpace.

Television producer Baer is a co-creator of the Venice Arts project “The House Is Small But The Welcome Is Big.” This two-year photography project documented HIV positive South African women and Mozambican children orphaned by AIDS and in addition to being the focus of a local exhibit, is currently on display at Exit Art in New York. Photographs from the project by Venice Arts students will be included.

There will also be food provided by local restaurants, wine and cocktails courtesy of Slusser Ranch Vineyards and VeeV, and music by Birdie Mendoza.

Following the dinner, there will be a party with more refreshments, music by Las Estrellas de Los Angeles, and both a silent auction of art and a raffle.

The silent auction will feature photography not only by well-known artists such as Robert Stivers and Dennis Hopper, but also photographs by Venice Arts students, some of whom will be in attendance.

Venice Arts was founded, according to Executive Director Lynn Warshafsky, in response to a lack of opportunity for local youth to be involved with the arts. At that time, she says, “arts programs had essentially been eliminated from schools and additionally, there weren’t places in the community where kids were able to engage in art or creativity. It all seemed strange to us, as Venice was known as a creative community.”

Seeking to create a link between artists and the community, Venice Arts developed what Warshafsky considers a “unique” model – a mentoring program in which artists work with kids “at ratios as low as one-to-one and rarely more than one-to-three.” They teach arts programs at local schools, weekends and during the summer.

Photography has been a specialty for Venice Arts, with projects emphasizing the documentation of the community while teaching kids how to engage with new technologies. The focus, says Warshafsky, “is on intensive art learning, development of the creative voice, engagement in the community, in visual arts as well as media literacy. We really encourage kids to stay in our program for the long term.”

The 15th Anniversary dinner and party for Venice Arts will be held at Ravenswork Studios, 1611 Electric Avenue, Venice. Dinner will be at 5:30 p.m., followed by the party from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $150 for the art auction and party alone, $300 for the entire evening, and $10 for the raffle.

For more information go to venice-arts.org or thehouseissmall.org.

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