As fiercely independent as the residents of Venice can be, they also boast an amazing sense of community and public service. In no other Los Angeles neighborhood will you find the rich array of not-for-profit organizations that Venice houses in just a few square miles.
- Health: Venice is home to the longest continuously operating (and, some would argue, most successful) clinic in the Unites States.
- Housing: The Venice Community Housing Corporation, under the direction of housing attorney Steve Clare, continues to fight for affordable public housing and services in the area.
- Art: The old Venice jail now houses SPARC, the Social And Public Art Resource Center, funded by muralist Judy Baca. This year Baca received the Public Art Network Award, presented by Americans for the Arts for her commitment and contributions to improve communities through public art.
- Literary: Tucked away in one room of Venice's City Hall is one of the country's most important literary organizations, Beyond Baroque, who filled a void after the virtual disappearance of the Beat movement in the 1950's.
- Theater: Down the block from Beyond Baroque, there's a community theater whose repertoire includes resident Venetian actor Orson Bean and many others.
- Politics: The Venice Neighborhood Council is a boisterous bunch that debate (and try to find a common ground) to issues such as chain restaurants, fence heights and homelessness.
- Religion: The neighborhood's pluralism is also evident in the array of religious organizations (and schools) in the area. As beat poets found a place to disconnect from "civilization" in Venice, so did hundreds of Jewish immigrants who settled in the Venice boardwalk during the post-war years and opened the Pacific Jewish Center, who is still in operation today thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Fink.
In an atomized region where everyone is a critic, it's refreshing to find so many organizations working towards common good of a single neighborhood. Los Angeles and California's current budget deficits, however, threaten these and many other community, non-profit organizations, stripping away funding and shrinking long-standing initiatives.
What would Venice and Los Angeles be without organizations that provide such services to residents and communities? This week Departures: Venice will look at some of the organizations that have flourished (and are noew threatened) in the area.