August 2008 – Beyond Baroque in peril, again?

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Beyond Baroque, Venice’s poetry center, is still without a lease at the old Venice City Hall, 681 Venice Blvd. It has been more than five months since the Los Angeles City Council voted to renew Beyond Baroque’s lease to its offices, bookstore and theater for the next 25 years.

Sources inside the L.A. city establishment say that, contrary to a city council resolution of February 29, Beyond Baroque may lose the part of the lease pertaining to its historic theater, the heart of its operations. 

Apparently, L.A. Theater Works, which has offices in the Beyond Baroque building, even though its performances are held at the Skirball Cultural Center in the Santa Monica mountains, is pressuring the city council office for control of Beyond Baroque’s small theater.

Beyond Baroque is celebrating its 40th year in Venice, during which time it has promoted local poets and writers, staged performances, held writing classes and published collections of poems. L.A. Theater Works, on the other hand, seems to have little or no connection to the community except that its free office is located in a city building in Venice. 

While Beyond Baroque functions on a shoestring budget, L.A. Theater Works’ website touts its “Producers’ Circle” where donors are encouraged to give from $1,000 to $50,000 to the organization.

If L.A. Theater Works found offices closer to its Hollywood base, its space would be available to other deserving Venice organizations or for Beyond Baroque’s goal of setting up archives of the works of Venice Beat poets and writers such as Philomene Long.

An organization of supporters not affiliated with the Institution, called Friends of Beyond Baroque, has been formed to ensure the survival of the institution. Its members have contacted Councilmember Bill Rosendahl to urge him to uphold the Council Resolution awarding Beyond Baroque’s lease to all its historic space and protect this precious Venice institution intact. Friends of Beyond Baroque can be reached at: [email protected]

A Beachhead article from March 1974, by Carol Fondiller, announced that the LAPD was vacating the city hall building and that it would be available for Venice community organizations, such as Beyond Baroque.

“This wonderful piece of art deco architecture would be perfect for the Venice Town Council meetings. It has parking places, it’s fairly central and damn it, it’s ours!” Fondiller wrote.

“It’s our Venice City Hall, she continued. “Los Angeles took it away from us and put in their occupying forces!… City Hall belongs to the people!”

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