By Greta Cobar
There are many white, clean beaches up and down the Coast. Yet people choose Venice for its bohemian vibe, artistic spirit and creative element. Ironically, though, the latest wave of arrivals have had the effect of killing the very things they moved here for.
The art heart of Venice is about to be ripped out, tossed, and replaced with condos. Artists Ned Sloane, Bill Attaway, Alberto Bevacqua and Ara Bevacqua received eviction notices to leave their 334 Sunset Studios.
Ned Sloane has been making pottery there since 1967. He’s currently trying to sell and give away most of the stuff in his studio, and he does not think he’ll ever be able to work with clay again. “The most important thing is that I find a place to live. I’m praying for a miracle. I would really love to stay in Venice, but I have no hope of that at this point. It’s time for me to let it go,” Sloane told the Beachhead.
Bill Attaway, who’s been doing ceramics since the early ‘80s in the studio neighboring Sloane, credits Sloane with helping him grow as an artist. Attaway is taking a more optimistic approach in dealing with his eviction, saying “Whatever they build over me will be a beautiful blanket for my studio.”
Attaway’s awesome studio and gallery has been the center of all Art Walk and ARTBLOCK events, and without it these happenings are in danger of not happening anymore.
The property is and has been owned by the Webster Group, and although they have been good landlords to the artists, are now changing the zone from manufacturing to residential in order to build condos.
The newcomers, Google-type hipsters who will be able to afford to move into those expensive and sterile condos without personality were in the first place attracted to Venice because of its strong personality. So was Google.
The first building on that block to change the manufacturing zoning code and to evict the artists was Gjusta, the new eatery opened at 320 Sunset by the owner of Gjelina. It didn’t take long for that greedy virus to spread next door.
Before Gjusta moved in the entire block was nothing but art studios. The remaining ones are now at huge risk of being invaded by the greed virus as well, and transformed into condos also.
Interestingly, the new sterile condos that were built across the street are not at full capacity, and have rented out their garages as exhibit spaces to artists during past Art Walk and ARTBLOCK events.
Are these new condos going to find occupants? And how long will those occupants stay once all the artists are gone and there’s a trendier area to move to? Will anybody stay for 47 years, like Sloane did, and create the studio and the artwork that he has? And when it’s all done, everything these artists have dedicated their lives to destroyed, who will be responsible for the enormous loss to the community and the art world at large?
“I would like the people moving here to realize that by default they’re causing people to move out – they are eliminating what they move here for,” Alberto Bevacqua told the Beachhead. “How do you get people to see that this is valuable and it needs to be preserved?”, Bevacqua continued. He’s been in his 334 Sunset studio for eight years, doing photography, steel sculpture, lighting and furniture.
“The new generation is not getting a chance. My twenty-two year old son Ara, who’s been living in Venice for 17 years, has been working on silver sculpture in my studio. Now he’s being run out of his hometown. It affects me emotionally more about him than myself,” Bevacqua told the Beachhead.
“I keep thinking: ‘Oh My God, what am I gonna do with all this stuff?’”, Sloane told the Beachhead. And what he’s talking about is a life-time of prized acquisitions as well as knowledge and talent. All of it about to disappear and make room for the bulldozers to come in and make space for cubicle-looking condos that won’t be worth a dime once the artistic foundation that they are built on is gone.
Sloane would like to find good homes for his vast collection of glazes and clay, two kilns, pottery and trimming wheels, and press molds. “Somebody will get a kick out these molds, I tell you,” Sloane told the Beachhead. If you are interested, call him at 310-396-2694.
“Venice is muerto, bought and sold,” Attaway told the Beachhead. “I will keep making art, no matter what. Venice is in my heart, and anywhere I go, Venice will be in my heart. But I’ve seen the whole place change,” Attaway continued.
“It doesn’t matter – everyone who came here to get that energy, the freedom, back to the ‘60s, the poets and further back, they already had it inside of them. Venice is just a flower garden – it shows you how beautiful you can be and the different things you can be. You could be a rose bush,” Attaway told the Beachhead.
Because the space they’re getting evicted out of is commercial space (as opposed to residential), none of the artists will get any relocation money.
“After the initial shock wore off, I just figured I gotta take it day by day,” Sloane told the Beachhead. It must not be easy to be uprooted at 77 years old from a space that you’ve been in for 47 years.
What can we do? We need to stop praying for help from City Hall, because it’s not happening. The anti-mansionization proposal that was unanimously approved by City Hall November 4 does not even include Venice, even though Venice is one percent of the city of Los Angeles and yet home to twenty percent of the development currently taking place in L.A. The only hope for Venice and its vibe is cityhood.
Every time a new development, yuppie establishment or another take-over comes to town, don’t turn around thinking: “Thank God it’s not me” or “It won’t affect me, I got rent control.” Sooner or later it will affect you, and your rent control will be torn down in the blink of an eye. Mike Bonin is our representative in City Hall, but he didn’t even bother to include Venice in the anti-mansionization proposal. It would be nice if calls to his office produced results.
Venice cityhood is our only option, organizing towards it our only hope.
Above: Where Art Meets Eviction – artwork by Bill Attaway
Above: Bill Attaway in his studio, beside his artwork; Photo: Greta Cobar
Above: Ned Sloane in his studio; Photo: Greta Cobar
Above: Pottery by Ned Sloane
Above: photography, steel sculpture and lightning by Alberto Bevacqua