March 20, 2015

Photo Essay: The Walls Are Alive in Venice Beach

My first experience of Venice, CA was by watching Xanadu, but I didn't know it at the time.

Screenshot from the Universal Pictures movie Xanadu

It looked like some strange world of buxom babes serving hot dogs, shirtless rollerskaters...

Screenshot from the Universal Pictures movie Xanadu

...and seven sisters that lived inside a mural and could somehow come to life through dance.

I had to believe it was magic. But it was just movie magic. Not only does that mural not exist, but the wall it was painted on doesn't even exist.

Even so, Venice actually is a beach city of murals, some in tribute to its film history...

...and others in tribute to Venice's cultural history itself... the Venice de Milo...

...painted on the exterior wall of Danny's Deli.

Danny's is historic in its own right, in a building that dates back to 1915.

From its ceiling hangs of the old gondolas used to navigate the canal waters of Venice of America.

Venice's current iteration couldn't exist if those canals near the boardwalk hadn't been filled in and paved over to allow for automobile traffic...

...or if the beach itself hadn't been buried in sand to cover up the old Venice Pavilion. Built in 1961 to hold concerts, the pavilion became a haven for the homeless in the 1980s, and later a popular skatepark. Long gone were the roller skaters. They'd been overtaken by skateboards and graffiti in "The Pit."

The Pavilion site was set for demolition in the late '90s / early 00s, but the city ran out of money and only partially demolished it, deciding to leave all of the intact elements and the rubble in place, and covering it in sand. You can still see the chimneys from the old pavilion fire pits sticking up, now painted black.

This section of the beach is an area devoted to legal graffiti art, where wannabe street artists can apply for a free permit, buy some paint, and make their mark.

They paint the cones. trashcans, some remaining walls and even the trees, but once those are full of tags, their handiwork is covered in black paint, creating new blank canvases for new artists to deface.

But even with all of those changes, there's something about that boardwalk that is so familiar to me, as though I knew my way around even before I'd ever been there in person.

It's a place you can go when you feel lost, and you won't be alone.

And maybe someday, someone will pop out of one of those painted walls to inspire you.

Much of what I learned about this part of Venice is thanks to Vintage Venice Reel to Real Tours. Thanks Jonathan!

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A Venice Without Canals
Photo Essay: Venice (Beach) Canals
An Alternate Route

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