July 2008 – Happy Birthday, Venice!

For forty years after the founding of Venice, the area from Windward to the water was the Kinney Pier, the biggest attraction in Southern California between 1905 – 1946. 

When it was torn down, the beach lay vacant until the 1960s when our very own amphitheater – just like in ancient Rome – was built. It was called the Venice Pavilion and it didn’t quite measure up to the Roman Coliseum, but it was a gathering point for live theater, community meetings, senior activities (including shuffleboard), and concerts.

It also had a picnic court with stone tables and chairs. In the 1970s, a young muralist, Judy Baca, (bottom right, above) received permission to paint the history of the universe and the history of Venice.

The murals depicted the unsoiled wetlands, the indigenous people who live in harmony with the land for thousands of years, the coming of the Spanish and the oppression of the missions. 

They show the founding of Venice and its glory days, the discovery of oil and its toxic effect on the environment. We see the Beat poets and musicians living in a nearly-free paradise. Some of the thousands of elderly Jews – refugees from Hitler’s concentration camps and the garment shops of New York – who once lived in the old hotels on Ocean Front Walk. The Sixties counterculture, which again made Venice famous, and led to institutions and attitudes that are still strong in our community. 

Alas, first the top half of the wall was cut off so police could see what was going on inside. Then graffiti covered much of the murals. Finally, the city of Los Angeles decided we didn’t need such a prize as the pavilion and tore it down.

Categories: Art, History, Venice