Art: The show comes to Santa Monica for the first time. Sam Durant

In 1979 when the Venice Family Clinic was on the brink of closing its doors and a low-income community on the edge of losing its only access to quality affordable medical care, local artists came to the rescue by hosting an emergency art walk and auction. Now 43 years later, the clinic provides quality healthcare to over 45,000 patients in need a year and this annual event continues to be an epic community fundraiser.

This year, for the first time and following two virtual events, the Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auction is coming to a gallery in Santa Monica. From April 15 through May 1, over 200 donated artworks will be on display at Santa Monica Place and open to all members of the public. This year will also feature the clinic’s first ever NFT art auction and these digital art pieces will be on display both in the gallery and on Nifty Gateway. 

“Every winning bid funds healthcare for people in need, so it’s a great opportunity to start a collection of meaningful, beautiful art and also give to a very critical cause that’s helping people right in your neighborhood,” said Erin Harnisch, Venice Family Clinic Event Director.

While Venice Family Clinic has expanded to include 17 sites in its network of care, which stretches from the Santa Monica Mountains through the South Bay, a significant portion of its life changing services take place right in Santa Monica. 

The largest clinic in their network is The Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center at 2509 Pico Boulevard, which provides a wide range of medical services including primary care, mental health services, dental care, vision care, chronic pain treatment, nutrition education, stress management and food distribution. Venice Family Clinic also runs a teen clinic out of Santa Monica High School and has a street medicine team that is deployed to assist patients experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica. 

The Venice Family Clinic team is excited to bring its largest annual fundraiser to Santa Monica and hopes that this will allow a new group of people to learn about and support the clinic. 

“I think one of the things that is most exciting about the Venice art walk is that it attracts so many people. In a normal year we have five or six thousand people that attend the event, so it’s a really great way to get the word out about the Venice Family Clinic and garner new supporters,” said Harnisch.

The event has a long history of support from legendary local artists. The initial art walk and auction was spearheaded by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who was integral in encouraging other artists from Venice and Ocean Park’s thriving art scene to take part. Some of these artists include Lita Albuquerque, John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Laddie John Dill, Ed Moses and Ed Ruscha, who all donated works and opened their studios for public tours, which became the art walk component of the event.

Several of these artists or their estates continue to participate in the event to this day. The event maintains a focus on highlighting local artists while also attracting many star artists from across the country. Some of this year’s featured artists include Gary Baseman, Bumblebeelovesyou, Fritz Chesnut, Rosson Crow, Sam Durant, FriendsWithYou, Alexandra Grant, Lauren Greenfield and Brenna Youngblood.

The 2022 Venice Art Walk Signature Artist is artist, activist and Angeleno Andrea Bowers, whose work addresses contemporary political issues such as immigration, environmental activism and sexual assault. 

“Health care is a human right. I’m so grateful the Venice Family Clinic exists so that people in need have access to quality health care they can afford. The Clinic alone cannot meet the tremendous necessity for health care. Our society must do more—for places like the Clinic, for their patients and the millions of uninsured in this country,” said Bowers.

The art walk gallery will also feature an exclusive edition of 44 prints called “Sky’s the Limit” by Japanese American artist and Los Angeles artist Gajin Fujita. 

Bidding on the artwork will begin on April 15 and conclude at 6 p.m. on May 1. Physical artworks will be auctioned at artsy.net/veniceartwalk and the NFT auction will take place on Nifty Gateway. The gallery is in the 1st floor East Court of Santa Monica Place and will be open to the public from noon to 6:00 p.m., April 15 to May 1. More information on the event and featured artwork can be found at venicefamilyclinic.org/veniceartwalk.

Clara@smdp.com