Soon after the civil unrest in Los Angeles, and after one of what were to be many cuts to arts education in Los Angeles' public schools, a group of Venice residents—artists, business people, and other community members—came together to figure out how to link Venice's then large community of emerging and established artists with the significant number of kids living in poverty. Our dream? A vibrant, neighborhood arts center open to the whole community, but with a core commitment to nurturing creativity and possibility in the lives of young people. In 1993, Venice Arts was born.
With an all-volunteer crew of photographers who understood the power of visual storytelling and self-representation—especially for kids marginalized because of their economic class, race, or immigration status—our first workshop, Venice Through Our Eyes, was conceived. It taught 10 kids how to use their camera to explore, describe, and share their world, and launched our pioneering work in what is now called participatory or participant-produced media, which continues to be a strong component of our programs today.
Now, we serve over 450 low-income young people, each year, through what remains our largest, core program, Art Mentoring & Education; engage a broad community at our Gallery through exhibitions, screenings, and public programs; and consult and train others interested in our model around the world.