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Venice: A Clash of Creative, Social Forces at Children's Art Mecca

March 12, 1995

Your article about the Venice Arts Mecca ("Creative Touch," Feb. 26) calls attention to an all-too-rare phenomenon. Rather then rant and rail about gangs, graffiti and the rest of the "What's wrong with today's youth?" litany, this group is successfully engaged in offering opportunities for constructive activities to local young people. In so doing, they are taking meaningful action to improve the quality of life for all of us in this community.

It is somewhat demoralizing to witness the petty response from some who, rather than applaud these efforts and look for ways to assist and enhance them by making the pavilion available for their use, merely whine about the possible noise these children might make, presumably while painting pictures, taking photographs, or learning a trade.

Perhaps these giving souls prefer the sound of police sirens and gunfire.

RICHARD TANNENBAUM, Venice

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It is horrifying that the only response you cared to publish to the Westside cover story on the Venice Arts Mecca group was one complaining about the pavilion as a potential source of noise if it served as a center for their multiple cultural and art programs. I also am an experienced Venetian, living well within loudspeaker-noise distance of the pavilion, and the only noise from there I have ever experienced was that from evangelical religious groups with loudspeakers deliberately set to boom over the neighborhood. Venice Arts Mecca plans no such activities, and in any event, most of their programs would take place inside the building. They are offering the children of Venice, many from neighborhoods dominated by gang activities, a positive, creative and alternative way to use their time and energy, and it has proved to be an enticing alternative.

The growing threat of gang activities on our social structure concerns many of us. There is little argument that prevention of gang growth, by recruitment, is one of the necessary responses. However, when someone comes along with a program designed to accomplish just that, we run up against an all-too-common response: "not in my neighborhood." Moreover, in this case, what trivial grounds--those young people learning to dance and paint might make too much noise, and this in an area rife with the sounds of ghetto blasters, unmuffled motorcycles and car alarms, punctuated with the occasional gunshot or two.

In scattered loaned spaces, with donated used equipment and very little money (none from public coffers) Venice Arts Mecca has accomplished wonders. To propose tearing down a multimillion-dollar building that could serve as a center for such positive ends is ludicrous.

JOAN KLOTZ, Venice Arts Mecca board member

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I enjoyed reading your Feb. 26 cover story "Creative Touch" by Kathleen Kelleher, which outlines the creative projects of the Venice Arts Mecca and their quest to utilize Venice Beach's most neglected resource--the Venice Beach Pavilion.

Ms. Kelleher points out correctly that goodwill in the community is essential if the group is to achieve its most ambitious goal: that of transforming the pavilion into a combined community arts and child-care center. But the Arts Mecca deserves more than community goodwill. It also deserves community and government leaders' help and support to ensure this long overdue dream becomes a community reality.

Ms. Kelleher's observation that boardwalk merchants want the city to raze the building is not exactly accurate. Some do, but many do not. The sad fact is most people have not really had the opportunity to see the inside of the locked-up pavilion and do not even know what is there and what potential really exists. Many architects and technicians, however, who have toured and examined the pavilion are aghast that it is not being refurbished, and assure such refurbishment and utilization is a very achievable and not-so-expensive proposition.

Thousands of people (both residents and visitors) have signed petitions supporting use of a portion of Prop. A funds to help refurbish the pavilion rather than installing a costly, impractical and unwanted designer brick boardwalk. Fundamentally it's simply a matter of priority. Designer glitz for the boardwalk area or enhancement of art, education and culture for the youth of the community.

JERRY RUBIN, Santa Monica

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