Sponto is gone

By Suzy Williams

On December 28, our beloved Mark “Sponto” Kornfeld, died in the gallery that he had created – Sponto’s – at 7 Dudley Avenue. This had been a space in which every Venetian felt at home during the last 24 years. 

Sponto died of an apparent heart attack. He had come in the afternoon, left his keys in the outside door, and had begun to run a shower, which was still running six hours later when his body was found. 

He had complained to friends of having chest pain the previous week. Born Mark Kornfeld in Glen Cove, New York, on August 29, 1949, he was only 59 years old.

The venue, which once held the Venice West Cafe, home of the Beat Generation in Venice, was a mecca to artists of every Venice stripe with constant showings of original art, cutting-edge films, lectures, poetry readings and musical performances, mostly of local persuasion. 

Twice a year Sponto Gallery hosted a Solstice extravaganza, hosted by Ibrahim and Diane Butler, wherein a group show of mostly homeless artists and all sorts of live musicians performed. The celebration often lasted all day and late into the night. 

The Venice community has taken a very hard hit at the loss of this generous, impish, life-affirming man. He was the ultimate hippie, sooth-sayer, sunset appreciator, lady admirer, Venice afficianado. 

Losing Sponto is very hard, unexpected and deeply sad for me and many more in our community. 

The last couple of years was an immense struggle for him to keep the venue afloat. Certainly the loss of this pillar of our community can only make us more aware of the handful of remaining benevolent people who preserve our unique culture with such intelligent passion. 

The only way that we who are left behind can deal with this ridicu-lousy profound loss is to dance, love more, kick out the jams, and cry our eyes out. Sponto Sponto Sponto. We may have had the chance to thank you, but why didn’t we get a chance to say goodbye…? 

The last time I saw Sponto was on first friday this December on Abbot Kinney at Zingara, the gypsy clothing and artifact store. We were full of merriment, based on the largess of the store proprietors and the general goodwill up and down, and Sponto said to me : “What would you like? I want to buy you a present – anything you want.” 

I, incredulous, said “What? Are you sure? Are you serious?” and he said “Yes – just pick it out.” 

So I showed him a couple of gem-colored candlesticks I’d become enamored with and he bought them for me pronto (meanwhile we met two lovely young ladies who were taken by the huge vibes from the bubble of bliss we were occupying and we fell into a deep probe of each other’s life-path-very Sponto-inspired). 

Then Sponto said: “What else would you like?” and I said: “What do you mean? You want to get me something on top of this??” (I was already knocked out) “Yes ! Yes! What else would your heart desire?” 

So I said:”Hmm.. Well, there are some wonderful question-mark old typewriter key earrings that I totally crave” and he said “Let’s go,” so we walked the half-block it took to get to Carol Tantau’s, but unfortunately it had closed. 

Sponto then turned his attention down the boulevard and bid me fondue and disappeared into the sparkly, shimmery, enchanted Abbot Kinney night. I called him the next day to thank him and he said “Oh yeah, baby it’s all good…I gotta go…love you honey.” Yes that was my last contact with Sponto.

Categories: Obituary, Venice