The Venice Art Walk events, “The Original Venice Experience,” took place Friday May 20 through Sunday May 22 to raise funds for the Venice Family Clinic. The clinic is an organization devoted to providing free health care to low-income patients without insurance who primarily live on the Westside of L.A. County. A small storefront operation at its founding in 1970, the Venice Family Clinic is now the largest free clinic in the entire country, with 10 sites and 225 staff members.
But the organization stays afloat with the help of volunteers, 2,096 in total, that provide services for over 24,000 people at an estimated value of $2 million each year. The clinic was founded by doctors Philip Rossman and Mayer B. Davidson, and now includes 514 physicians, 119 board members and 14 individuals serving as patient advisory council members.
The clinic’s first art walk was held in 1979, when there were no other art walks in L.A. Venice was one of the city’s most poor areas at the time, but the art community was thriving. Clinic volunteers came up with the simple idea to sell tickets for a tour of private artist studios with all funds benefiting the clinic. Many of the artists themselves were actually patients at the clinic, which made garnering studio participation a breeze. By 1986, the walk was actually providing one-third of the clinic’s operating budget.
As of press time the clinic estimated a gross revenue of more than half a million dollars, totaling around $581,000. Tim Smith, Director of Communications for the clinic, said that this year was better than any of the 10 years he has seen it in terms of content. Smith has watched the events grow, and several new additions were made this year, including a skate and surf auction and a community fair.
Fifteen new artists agreed to open their studios, including sculptors Alex Andre and Stephen Glassman, painters Judy Nimtz and Michael Webber, and glass blower John Mooney. Art Within Reach at the free community fair showcased 14 up-and-coming artists’ digital ink jet prints, and more than 50 artists contributed pieces to the skate and surf auction, featuring reused and recreated skate and surf boards.
The community fair on the green at Westminster School served as a meeting point for walkers to mingle and catch up between tours. Ethnic music kept crowds engaged and food vendors kept them full. Conveniently, it was between the two studio tour paths, and provided easy access to the silent auction items that filled the Westminster School hallways. All proceeds from the auctions and tours will go directly to the Venice Family Clinic.
For more information on the clinic, or to find out how to donate, visit venicefamilyclinic.org or e-mail [email protected]