Surf & Skate Auction at Venice Art Walk
By Carita Rizzo
For more than three decades the Venice Art Walk & Auctions has been celebrating the local art scene with its acclaimed studio and architecture tours, art auctions, and exhibits that benefit the Venice Family Clinic, a free medical facility that provides care to more than 24,000 low-income, uninsured individuals in the community. But when local artist Mark Farina joined the steering committee for the Art Walk three years ago, he was surprised to find there was a group of artists that was being largely neglected. “I thought they weren’t going after a lot of what I thought were cool street artists,” says Farina. “So I came up with this idea to do a small section of skateboard art during the regular Art Walk.” He strode into a pitch meeting with a blank skateboard, saying he wanted to give them to various artists to use as canvases and then create a separate event for their work during Art Walk season. The result was the Surf & Skate Auction, a summer superfête supported by high-wattage stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Maria Bello.
The third annual fundraiser will be held at Santa Monica’s Robert Berman Gallery on August 29 and serves as the Art Walk’s end-of-summer celebration. Surfer/artist Robb Havassy, who was introduced to the cause by fellow artist and friend Andy Moses, will curate the art. Havassy is donating 15 identical replicas of a surfboard he painted in the mid-’90s to renowned artists like Ed and Andy Moses, Charles Arnoldi, and Laddie John Dill on which they will create their own pieces of art. “With this being a Venice-centric deal, it was like, ‘How many of my friends and my friends’ friends and favorite artists can I get to do this?’” says Havassy, who recently completed volume two of a book and documentary called Surf Story involving 200 surfers and artists to be released in 2014. “I was nervous about asking people to do something. As artists we’re often asked to give, give, give. I asked everybody, and everybody said yes. A lot of them said, ‘Yes, and you know who else you should ask?’ so I have way more artists who want to do it than I have boards for this event!”
For the second consecutive year the Surf & Skate Auction is hosted by Sex and the City star Jason Lewis. After a tour of the clinic, the SoCal native and Topanga resident was so taken by the facilities, he immediately signed on to help raise funds and awareness. “I like the aspect of charities being immediate and local,” Lewis says. “Supporting the Venice Art Walk supports local artists and I love that. And the clinic itself takes care of people who should be taken care of. In an industrialized nation everybody should be taken care of, and yet we don’t have that. I was really blown away by how they do what they do.”
With a fundraising goal of $50,000—all of which will go to the Venice Family Clinic—the most valuable gain from Surf & Skate is still the introduction of a younger generation to the cause, helping the clinic increase its volunteer base and get the word out to others about what the clinic is able to accomplish with their help. “What makes Venice Family Clinic special is the incredible partnership it has with the people who live and work in the communities we serve,” says Venice Family Clinic’s executive director and CEO, Elizabeth Benson Forer. “We have about 230 people on staff, but we can’t do our work without the more than 2,000 volunteers who help us. We have the capacity to really use volunteers in all kinds of ways based on their interests. Every day, there are new people and folks who know us well walking into the clinic with wonderful ideas of how we can help people in our community.”
With prices for art starting at around $100, Surf & Skate truly is an event for the entire community. “It’s art that people have access to, meaning it’s not expensive,” adds Forer. “There’s usually excellent music there, wonderful food, and a great group of people. It’s really a big party of folks who like art and who like living in these coastal communities of Venice and Santa Monica…. It’s just really fun!” The Surf & Skate Auction will take place Thursday, August 29 at 6 pm at Robert Berman Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-315-1937.
photography by sean francis zanni
Cover shoot: September 2014 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.