Recently, it was brought to our attention that there was no mention made of the art community that is blooming on Ventura Avenue in our story on Ventura’s New Art City plan, “Are We There Yet?” (Feature, 5/3/07). So, in an effort to round out the picture of Ventura’s art scene, here is a brief overview of the art-related happenings there.
First of all, the Bell Arts Factory, on the Avenue, is alive and well. The former factory showroom, now converted to an art center, features classes, art exhibitions and many other arts-related events for children and adults. For details about what is going on there, visit www.bellartsfactory.org.
Another interesting center for art on the Avenue is Michele Chapin’s Stoneworks Studio and Gallery. Chapin is a sculptor who works in stone and she offers private classes on stone carving and sculpture at her studio/gallery. Visit her Web
site, www.stoneworksstudios.com, for more information.
According to a list of cultural art organizations compiled by the City of Ventura on their Web site, there is also an art gallery called Studio 1317 on the Avenue.
In addition to these art gallery outposts, there are many artists living in the Avenue area due to its relatively low cost of living. One reader compared the area to Venice Beach in the 1960s. (He said he lived in Venice then and finds it very similar to his current home on the Avenue.) He extolled the benefits of low housing prices and said that the home prices there are some of the last relatively affordable houses left in the South Coast area.
Having inexpensive housing options is a critical component for fostering an arts community. The Avenue provides a refuge for working artists by providing shelter and work space at low costs. In addition, having artists concentrated in one geographic area benefits the creation of art. Creativity feeds on creativity and having artists (of different genres and medias) working in the same area is good for all the artists in the area.
While there is already a flourishing art scene on the Avenue, more could be done to complement the work of the artists there. The city could designate the area an arts corridor and work to improve the infrastructure of the area. The city could create tax incentives for art-related businesses (such as art supply stores or coffeehouses with art galleries) to open in the area. More murals and other public art work projects could be focused there to improve the aesthetic look and feel of the area. Banners could be hung from lamp posts, announcing arts events or exhibitions or promoting various arts non-profits. The City could create a Ventura Avenue Arts Festival, with studio tours, music and arts events for kids.
Wherever there is some art happening, in any community, there can always be more. No artist is an island and promoting the work of artists in one area of Ventura (where they are already congregating) will benefit the health of Ventura’s art scene as a whole. While the Avenue is only one area where artists are concentrating, it deserves recognition because of its low-cost housing and potential for further growth.