It always kind of amazes me how very little people know about the history of Venice. People that have lived here quite a while that have never heard of the Neptune Parade! That don't know who Arthur L. Reese was, and what he did for Venice. Or Irving Tabor! That don't know how Abbot Kinney chose the land that became Venice of America. That don't know the Black History of the Oakwood neighborhood. Maybe if they did, there wouldn't be people like the Penskes trying to buy a historical church for their personal residence? Well, the Venice Heritage Museum is about to make sure that all Venetians know their history.
The idea of a museum for Venice has been discussed for nearly the entire time our seaside community has existed, but now there is really something happening with it. Founded by Venice collectors such as Todd Von Hoffman and his band of merry pranksters. I met with VHM Board members Kristina Von Hoffman, Marilyn Ramirez, and Takara Adair at the proposed site of the new museum earlier this month when I was back in my beloved Venice checking up on it and getting a badly needed break from caregiving back in Minneapolis. We sat down in the grass there in Centennial Park, and I wondered if most current Venetians even know where that is? Well, it's the expanse between Venice Boulevard, in front of the Abbot Kinney Memorial branch of the Library - and that is where the Venice Heritage Museum is going to be located, in the perfect spot to welcome all to Venice.
The proposal features a restored classic Red Line Trolley to house the actual museum, along with a copy of the original Tokio Station where you would (will) buy tickets and get information, as well as a stage to host musicians, talent shows, storytelling, and all that good stuff that brings people together. The inside will feature the collections, archives, photographs, virtual reality interaction, and many, many stories of Venice past as our town gears up to celebrate its 116th Anniversary on July 4th this year! That's a lot of history, and it simply must be preserved to show future generations just how this groovy enclave became all that it is, including Dogtown and the designation as the "Last Beach Community of Color" in Los Angeles.
I remember when the gentrification was really gearing up after the turn of this century, and I started Blogtown in 2009 in order to capture some of the stories and characters of a Bohemian Surf community that I could already feel starting to disappear as the big money came in. Greedy landlords drove out so much of the artistic, creative, eccentric, hippie spirit of the place ... but not all of it. Venice has an indomitable spirit that refuses to be snuffed out, and I saw all of it still very much intact on my far too brief of a return trip back. It's there. It's vital. It must be celebrated. It must be kept intact, and handled in a way that knows how precious and rare it is. That is up to all of us who love Venice.
No one moves to Venice to live in a regular, humdrum place. When you become a resident of this Community, you must recognize where you are moving into. You cannot expect it to change to your personal desires - you're new, and much came before you. YOU have to change to become Venice (or not, if you're already somewhat cool). You come into such a place with RESPECT - for what came before you, and for what it is now.
The only way forward for a place such as Venice is by treating all with that respect, with listening, learning, empathy, and kindness. The way you learn is by knowing your history, which you will learn from your neighbors, of course, but soon there will be an actual place to bone up on your Venice knowledge with the Venice Heritage Museum.
There have been several successful fundraising events to make this dream happen, from a launch at Beyond Baroque, a party at Hama Sushi, and a car wash at Great Western Hoagies to a wrap party for the Go Fund Me campaign that was held at the beach parking lot. With all of the negativity surrounding Venice in the past few years, residents have been eager to have something positive to focus on, which this project most certainly is. This museum is wanted, and there is a clear will to make it happen. The hope is to break ground on the campus before the end of this year, with an eye on opening in July of 2023 in time for Venice's birthday!
There is still a great deal of work to be done, and will take the involvement of the entire Community as the VHM strives to be an inclusive space that shares the stories of all. This space will bring together residents and tourists alike for very Venice events, which is the whole point - to show that the culture and that SPIRIT of Venice is still very much alive and well. They need your memorabilia, your photos, your written stories, and yes, your dollars to make it happen. Please reach out to the Venice Heritage Museum team via their Website, and help bring yet another Venice dream come true.
Thank you so much for caring about the history and preservation of our Venice.
Donate to the Venice Heritage Museum HERE.
*Photos courtesy Venice Heritage Museum.