When Cars Mean Something More

Curated by Norberto Rodriguez, “A School of Thought, Museum of Meaning + Venice Family Clinic Present Museum of Artist Cars” highlights the artist’s growing partnership with Venice Family Clinic. 

The biggest installation at this year’s Venice Family Clinic’s Art Walk & Auctions was the exhibit curated by Norberto Rodriguez. Ranging from a vintage mint-green Mercedes filled with the signature large balloons of installation artist Geronimo (a.k.a. Jihan Zencirli) to a refurbished Wonder Bread truck, the exhibit was meant to sweep away the air of mystery that sits between artists and the public.

Think “artists drive cars, too,” says Rodriguez. And it certainly provided the visual spectacle and engagement the 42-year-old artist is known for creating in his work.

“I’ve been here before and seen that space and thought, ‘Wow, there’s the potential to do something really interesting and grander in that space,” he says. “It just came down to timing.”

Well, that and trust.

Though he started contributing to Venice Art Walk back in 2012, the Arlington Heights-based Rodriguez has worked to become more involved in the event each year. This year, he volunteered to curate an exhibition.

Rodriguez credits his increased involvement to his relationship with the staff, which has developed into a trust that his work will go toward helping people.

“It’s difficult to find people to trust,” says Rodriguez. “When you’re an artist, a lot of people ask for a lot of work all the time. It’s an easy way to make money without the artist getting anything out of it. But I have this level of trust.”

That belief resulted in the collaboration between Rodriguez and the Clinic. The “one-day pop-up experience” featured cars from Rodriguez, Zencirli, The Art of Chase, Corinne Chaix, Alvaro Ilizarbe and Jens Lucking.

“I know that what I’m contributing will also serve the public in a way that I cannot,” Rodriguez says. “I’m not a doctor and I’m not a healer, so whatever I contribute is going to something that’s greater than me.”

2018 Venice Family Clinic’s Art Walk & Auction Draws Huge Turnout  

Weekend event raises critical funds to provide health care to people in need

The 39th annual Venice Family Clinic’s Art Walk & Auctions drew record crowds to Google’s L.A. headquarters this weekend, transforming the tech company’s space in Venice into an art gallery showcasing the work of 250 legendary artists.

This year’s event is on track to raise $800,000 to support Venice Family Clinic’s mission to provide quality primary health care to people in need.

“We cherish the bonds we’ve formed with the artists of this community, as well as those who support Venice Art Walk,” says Elizabeth Benson Forer, CEO of Venice Family Clinic. “They share our passion for social justice and building stronger communities.”

The Clinic currently treats more than 26,000 patients across 12 locations annually. Naveena Ponnusamy, the Clinic’s chief development officer, said that the money raised would have an immediate impact for those in need of the Clinic’s services and programming.

“For many, Venice Family Clinic is their only option to get healthy,” says Ponnusamy. “When you support Venice Family Clinic, you ensure that the less fortunate in our community always have a place to go.”

Honorees have special ties to Clinic, health care

That need to provide access to quality care to the local community is a cause near and dear to this year’s honorees, in particular Featured Artist Sam Durant.

A Venice-based artist known for his social and political artwork, Durant benefitted from the Clinic’s services during the early 90s.  “As a struggling young artist, I went to the Clinic several times when I got sick,” he says. “I was treated at an affordable rate and was able to get the medicine I needed. I don’t know what I would have done without VFC.”

Durant created a limited-edition print, “Health Care for Everyone,” for this year’s Silent Art Auction. Durant said he was inspired after watching the homeless toil on the street and realizing how much they struggled to stay healthy.

“Health care is a human right,” says Durant, “and the best remedy for the times we live in is to get involved and get active in creating the world we want.”

The event also honored Ed Moses, one of L.A.’s most iconic artists, who passed away earlier this year. Moses had contributed to Venice Art Walk since 1982, after hearing about it from acclaimed light and space artist Laddie John Dill.

In addition to being named an honoree, local artists Art Fleur (Annie Wonderlich) and Shane Heath collaborated on a portrait of Moses during a Live Art exhibition. “It’s a great honor to have Ed honored like that,” says Andy Moses, Ed’s son.

Venice Art Walk also honored L.A.-based artist Alexis Smith as this year’s Signature Artist. Smith, whose work has been exhibited at the Whitney and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, contributed “Alexis Smith Playing Cards Made in the U.S.A.¸”which offers quotes from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass collection imprinted onto playing cards. Each card asks the audience to ponder deep, introspective questions.

Venice Art Walk holds a special place in Smith’s heart; she watched her father work in medicine throughout his life, first as a surgeon, and then later as director of the former Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, California.  

“My family background was a vivid illustration of the importance of both physical and mental health care, during a time when health care was more compassionate and readily available to individuals despite their financial status,” she says. “I believe in Venice Family Clinic’s vision to provide health care to those who could not otherwise afford it.”

Fun for all

The event featured engaging community activations including: live art exhibits, guided art workshops taught by local artisans, live music, a craft beer and wine garden, food trucks and dog daycare provided by fitdog.

The musical lineup included Parker Ainsworth, Dervish, Lacey Cowden, Jonny Boy, DANKE and Foxtrails.

For a $50 donation, guests enjoyed special access to dozens of artists’ studios, including Jean Edelstein, known for her handmade accordion books that meld performance with live art, and Alejandro Gehry, whose large-scale portraits focus on exploring and appreciating the zeitgeist.

Other art installations included mixed-media artist MZ and “A School of Thought, Museum of Meaning + Venice Family Clinic Present Museum of Artist Cars,” a collection of automobiles from various local artists. Curated by Norberto Rodriguez, the piece shows the more accessible sides of artists as well mock the current rash of “museums” celebrating the everyday.

“There’s the Museum of Ice Cream now. The Museum of Selfies,” Rodriguez says. “The marketing and advertising world has caught on the idea that if you put the word “museum” in front of something, it rises its cultural capital higher than, say, a gallery. This is my way of pushing back."