Venice Skills Center Restores Summer School
By Marjorie Hinds
Skills centers are the only remaining vestige of what was once a comprehensive, affordable, post-secondary education system in California.
At Venice Skills Center (VSC), tuition fees range from $30 to $78 a semester. Programs include upholstery, clothing design, graphic design, Web design, network operator, certified network administrator, computer operator, dental assistant and dispensing optician.
Basic reading, ESL, GED, child care and sign language classes are also available.
I was really worried the computer lab would be closed over the summer, says Jeremy Spears, just one of the students who spoke about the crucial role VCS has played in shaping his career.
Spears, who has a congenital hearing loss, attends VSC because of the excellent services available for students with disabilities. This summer he will use the computer lab to prepare for the Cisco networking certification examination.
Entry level salary for a Cisco-certified computer administrator hovers around $45,000 annually. If you can support yourself during the four semesters of training, as Spears did by detailing cars, and if you can ante up $312 which is the total cost of the program, then you can succeed, as Spears did. He landed the job of his dreams immediately upon completing the program.
Cisco student John Tabor chose VSC because the program emphasizes hands-on training. VSC is the only place to go, he says. Other schools offer paper certification, they teach to the test. This is the only place offering applied training.
Despite the overall good news, students who attend evening classes, including Tabor, are not sharing in the celebration. Cisco networking is one of the classes which has been cut from night schedule this summer.
Upholstery and clothing design students are being dealt the toughest blow. These programs will not be offered this summer and may be permanently discontinued. Enthusiastic upholstery students are not taking this lying down, however. Petitions are circulating and students are attending LAUSD Board meetings demanding the popular course be continued.
Upholstery student Anna Rae points out the ecological benefit of the trade. American consumers throw so much away, she says, if it isnt perfect they throw it out. Reupholstering is recycling.
Gabriela and Rigoberto Franco spend evenings at VSC redoing furniture for their home and making plans to open a small business based on skills they learn in class. Gabriela also attends day classesworking towards her GED. The couples business plans hinge upon continuation of the course.
The good news is that LAUSD responds to pressure. The resumption of summer classes demonstrates this fact. The long-term survival of Venice Skills Center cannot be taken for granted, however, and the message is clear: Stay aware and stay involved.
Bill has Balls
By John Davis
In the movie The Caine Mutiny, actor Fred MacMurray spoke of intestinal fortitude. GUTS! That is what I think our new Councilperson for CD 11 has. Bill scarred me at first at a 2004 Halloween party sponsored by conservation organizations banding together to save the Ballona Bluffs.
Bill said to us that he revered a gigantic redwood tree in Northern California to whom he had bonded. He said he took a bit of sap and brought it home to nibble on occasionally. Having lived in Humbolt County among the great trees I became immediately skeptical.
I thought, this is a democrat trying to bullshit me. I am of no declared political party and I am facing a man who claims to eat tree sap. But now I know it is true. Bill really is of a new breed. Though he has affiliated himself with the Democratic Party it seems only because he sees this as a way to change. At his election night party he claimed to be a "Progressive Democrat". While the term progressive has been taken up by many it can find its origins in the 1920s when women and laborers stood up and let their voice rise to political gain. Our new Mayor is an outspoken progressive too.
Together Bill and Antonio will be powerful allies with progressives in Venice.
Bill no longer scares me. Up until the night of the election I thought this guy is just selling me sap. He will be another Democratic Party hack like Ruth Galanter who was elected upon a solemn oath to save the Ballona Wetlands. Then turning her back on those who elected her, she fed the wetlands into the stinking teeth of bulldozers.
At nine on election night I pondered to walk six blocks over to Bills party by the Dog Park. Since there was no clear outcome to the election at that late hour and to see if my skepticism over another Democrat was warranted I went to the party. Into the breech, as I had never attended such a political event and expected to find only strangers.
Entering the party I was pleasantly surprised to be swarmed with friends at the door and throughout the entire delightful party. My colleagues from the Sierra Club, the Ballona Land Trust, and the Grassroots Venice Neighborhood Council were there. So I was sold. And Bill spoke with the eloquence of great orators of the past.
He spoke truth to power while recognizing the many people responsible for him entering City Hall. And this man is unafraid. He stands against Playa Vista Phase 2 and for the preservation of the historic Lincoln Place apartments in Venice. Bill, like Congressman Maxine Waters would aspire to see the Ballona Bluffs preserved as a park and a place for Native Americans who have been here for tens of thousands of years. Bill has intestinal fortitude.
How Venice Voted:
By Jim Smith
In the end, it wasn't even close. Citywide, Villaraigosa and Rosendahl won by landslides in the May 17 runoff election. In Venice, it was a massacre worthy of a Roger Corman horror movie.
Antonio Villaraigosa, the former union organizer and People's College of Law student, ran up vote totals in Venice not otherwise seen outside East Los. In the some precincts, the Mayor-elect got 84 percent. He carried every Venice precinct in zipcode 90291, that is, everything north of Washington Blvd.
Bill Rosendahl, a former Venice resident and TV personality, likewise trounced his opposition, almost as decisively. He carried every precinct in Venice, winning 68 percent of the vote. Unlike Villaraigosa, he walked away with all four precincts in the Oxford Triangle and the Peninsula.
The largest turnout for both candidates was in the precinct that includes beleaguered Lincoln Place. Both winning candidates picked up nearly double the votes that they received in the average precinct. Both had written letters in support of the Lincoln Place affordable housing complex, while neither of their opponents bothered.
What to expect?
Our new councilmember, on the other hand, is a novice politician. Normally this would be a big problem, but since the unelected Cindy Miscikowski has so dramatically lowered expectations, Rosendahl is likely to be cheered just for showing up.
Alas, no honeymoon lasts forever. Will Rosendahl turn out to be a progressive, as he says he is? Venice will not be satisfied with less. It's time for concern when the Beachhead urges a vote for Rosendahl and he ignores it. And, when Villagraigosa endorses him and he ignores that too. Let's hope ol' Bill doesn't assume he can take Venetians for granted because we have no where else to go. When the going gets tough down at city hall, Rosendahl may discover that he needs us just as much as we need him.
On the other hand, perhaps we'll all live happily ever after.
Special Interests Call for Special Elections
By Theresa Hulme
On May 25 in Pershing Square, an organized protest attracted thousands of public employees who spoke out against broken promises to schools and open attacks on the working classes of California. The dual protests occurred simultaneously in both downtown Los Angeles and Sacramento. Attendees herded in from Santa Barbara, Long Beach and everywhere in between. Bus drivers, SEIU members, health-care workers, students, children, families and helicopters were heard loud and clear on and above the streets of LA opposing a looming special election. (Republicans LOVE special elections!)
In a latest attack against the REAL heroes in our culture, Schwarzenegger is unleashing another round of misogyny described as reforms onto our most important vocational resource. The large and broad group is courageously confronting the corporate puppet, known as the Governor, but better known for bad acting and ultra-violent movies marketed to children.
''Teachers are joining with parents, firefighters, nurses and many others who are fed up with this governor's broken promises and his plans for a wasteful $80 million special election that favors special interests,'' said Barbara E. Kerr, president of the 335,00 member California Teachers Association. ''These rallies in Sacramento and Los Angeles are sending a message that the governor isn't fighting special interests, he's fighting us.
The Governor recently described the public sector, including teachers and union members, as being a special interest group. Ironically, he has received more contributions from special interest groups (of the corporate sort) than any Governor in state history.
The Special Election: Schwarzeneggers proposed $80 million special election is about initiatives that working people dont need, want or support. Insult to injury, his cronies at Enron and connections in Hollywood arent footing the bill. We are. Me and you. Well pay for it, then suffer the consequences.
By yanking the pensions from a stable environment and forcing their hard earned money into a risky, Las Vegas style, no guarantees stock market is stirring outrage among the very people it will affect. Cries of No groping our public pensions! could be heard in the crowds.
No Child Left Behind: Though nationwide and not open to a democratic process, NCLB was pushed through by Bush and drastically affects Californias schools. A sneaky, complex Bill that forces public schools to report to the Pentagon the names of children eligible for the US military, in exchange for desperately needed funding. Schools must let military personnel onto campus to lure the young and disadvantaged into the military as a means to pay for escalating college costs that even middle class families can no longer afford. The Bill also imposes near impossible standards onto teachers where they must take endless multiple choice tests. Critics of the Bill say the criteria are unrealistic, oppressive and nearly impossible to meet. The ulterior motive of NCLB is to create a system of failure where the government must come in, declare destruction and privatize. Nicknamed Leave no Academic Testing Company Behind, the Legislation is looked upon as a joke, but it isnt really funny.
While California boasts the fifth largest economy in the world, it ranks 46th, or closest to last, in education. With Arnies proposed cuts, California is poised to ascend to the heights of hypocrisy. Despite its enviable youth culture exported internationally, the Golden State imprisons more of its youth than anywhere in the world. Combined with a dying education system, Martin Luther King was eerily correct when he said A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
Save Our Art
An anti-illegal immigrant group, Save Our State, of Ventura County, emboldened by their recent victory at the removal of a billboard referring to Los Angeles, Mexico is now demanding the removal of the wording on a twelve-year old monument in Baldwin Park, California, entitled Danzas Indigenas. I was commissioned to produce this work in 1993 by MTA and the City of Baldwin Park in collaboration with the Kate Diamond Architectural Group.
The monument consists of a 20 ft arch, 100 ft plaza and 400 ft train platform. Produced with extensive public input, the monument includes five languages: English, Spanish, Gabrielino, Chumash, Luiseño and is a layering of indigenous, Spanish and mestizo history, which is associated with the site.
Included also are the contemporary voices and diversity that is indicative of contemporary Baldwin Park. Asked to produce a work that was mission in theme that reflected the majority population of Latinos in the City of Baldwin Park, and in keeping with my practice as an artist for inclusion of community members in my design process, I designed this work to include the past and present of the region and the voices of local residents. Of particular interest to me was the sites proximity to the mission of San Gabriel. The arch in the Plaza is conceived of as a fragment of a mission arch. Its intention was to become a site of public memory for the people of Baldwin Park; to make visible their invisible history.
Local residents sentiments were included in the present side of the monument, with verbatim quotes sandblasted into the surface of the arch. Local residents of all ages and ethnic groups were recommended by the arts committee and the city council and interviewed. They were asked about their hopes for the future of Baldwin Park.
Additional statements from community members on the arch which are not included in the discussion of the monument by the Save Our State group include Use your brain before you make up your mind, not just adults leading but youth leading too", a small town feeling, "when the Indians died the villages ended and the kind of community that people dream of rich and poor, white, brown, yellow all living together. These statements all represent the communitys desires, and are featured prominently in the work of art.
The work is not a work of a lone artist working without relationship to the community, but rather a representation of community sensibilities and sentiment of the time. While this group has cast the artwork as part of a Reconquista movement, it is in fact neither advocating for the return of California to Mexico, nor wishing that Anglos had never come to this land. This statement it was better before they came, was deliberately ambiguous. About which they is the anonymous voice speaking? The statement was made by an Anglo local resident who was speaking about Mexicans. The ambiguity of the statement was the point, and is designed to say more about the reader than the speaker and so it has.
The quote this land was Mexican once, was Indian always, and is, and will be again is by a critically acclaimed Chicana author, Gloria Anzaldua. On the Save Our State website, she is referred to as a dead Chicana lesbian. I chose this quote because the mission is one mile from the Mission San Gabriel, and descendants of the Gabrielinos still live in the region, making Anzalduas text particularly relevant to the increasing indigenous population. A correct reading of the quote makes it clear that this is not about Mexican reconquista, but about the land returning to its origins.
This is not a question only of my rights as an artist to not have my copyright violated, but also a question of revisionist history carved out twelve years after an extensive democratic public process produced this work. It is the collective vision of the people of Baldwin Park that is under attack by this Ventura group. What is most deserving of respect are the voices that are represented in the monument. Also deserving of respect, are the voices of the ancient indigenous who say in the first person memory and will power is how we retain the knowledge of our culture.
Our capacity as a democracy to disagree and to coexist is precisely the point of this work. No single statement can be seen without the whole, nor can it be removed without destroying the diversity of Baldwin Parks voices. Silencing every voice with which we disagree, especially while taking quotes out of context, either through ignorance or malice, is profoundly un-American.
Judith Francisca Baca is the founder and Artistic Director of SPARC the Social and Public Art Resource Center in Venice.
Gift Horse or Trojan Horse?
By Lisa Ezell
On April 16 in a Los Angeles Times article, a reporter related the following story:
Well, the City of Los Angeles has accepted a Robert Graham headless and limbless nude female torso sculpture that will stand 11.5 feet tall in the Venice Traffic Circle Island. I do not know what Alice Walker did with her sculpture, but we won't be able to hide this one under the bed or in the back of the closet.
From the top of the stump of the neck to mid-thigh where the legs end, the statue's height is 6'. It is made of solid cast aluminum, polished to a shiny finish, weighs 3,500 lbs. (yes, really 3,500 lbs!), and will be mounted on a 4.5 ft. steel base on top of a 1 ft. tall concrete footing, standing altogether, 11.5 in height. It is so massive that a 2 ft. high and 8 ft. square concrete base is required underground to support its weight.
Why look a gift horse in the mouth? After all, this sculpture is a gift to our city (by generous Venice Peninsula art collector Roy Doumani) and it is valued at $350,000. It is by an internationally renowned local artist and requires solely the investment of an estimated $75,000 of our city's funds for its complex installation.
This gift was accepted by local city councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski (reputed to own a small Graham "Torso" or two, herself), and the Windward Avenue Improvement Association has pledged to pay for all future maintenance of the sculpture.
Well, first of all, it is inappropriate for this location (literally our Venice Town Square). There are 5 streets that meet at the Venice Circle, and bordering its west side is the Venice Post Office with its beautifully preserved W.P.A. mural by Edward Biberman depicting the founder of Venice.
This site is not just another location for public art. Art located at this site will be, by virtue of its historic and central location in Venice, a civic monument, and as such, make a statement to the world about our community.
The Graham "Torso" is foremostly inappropriate as a civic monument for this location by its similarity to the 2003 "Torso" commissioned by the Rodeo Drive Committee for Beverly Hills (located in a median at the intersection of Rodeo and Dayton).
The Venice "Torso" has a more nubile body, its hip cocked in a more eroticized pose (to see the Beverly Hills "Torso," go to the artist's website, www.robertgraham-artist.com and click on Public Works and then click on Torso at the far right of the screen).The Venice torso's arms are cut off, their stumps level with the neck (to see both "torsos," go to the Beachhead website at www.venice-beachhead.org and see the April 2005 issue).
Should our civic center sculpture match that of Beverly Hills? We don't have a lot in common with Beverly Hills, which is a high-style, money-driven and manicured sort of place. What makes Venice special is its diverse community. The environment here is a little rough around the edges, but there is a large concentration of writers, poets and visual artists; people who , in the words of Jimi Hendrix, "let the freak flag fly" live next door to preachers and teachers, musicians and skateboarders. Our community could not be more different than Beverly Hills and we deserve unique art!
Secondly, art for locations with civic importance is traditionally chosen by one of two methods. Either an open call for entries, or by the invitation of a small group of artists (the artists selected by a committee such as the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department) to submit designs for the project.
Some residents are unhappy that the community was not given any other options or choices for this important location. Local artists are required to notify all residents within a two-mile radius for their own proposed mural projects even on a minor street. They resent the way the "Torso" project, by its designation as "a minor street or sidewalk alteration, was able to fraudently avoid many of the usual bureaucratic requirements, and was made exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act.
For example, the public hearing notices for the "Torso" were required to be given only to residents and business owners within 100 feet of the project!
Thirdly, art related to Venice's rich civic and cultural history would be more appropriate for the Venice Windward Traffic Circle Island; and/or a fountain that would bring movement and music by its falling water to a location where the entire area was originally a canal.
Lastly, the "Torso" is a representation that is insenstive to the dignity of women. Its placement would be one block from the Venice Foursquare Church where Pastor Regina Weller holds meetings for battered women and former prostitutes. And seven local churches use the Venice Traffic Circle Island on International Prayer Day to gather together and pray. The "Torso" in this location is a choice of art that is insensitive to our community.
The "Torso" has divided our community. It is too bad that Robert Graham, who could possibly be the best artist in our community to create a sculpture that would reflect upon and celebrate Venice in its centennial year, has instead chosen to place yet another "Torso," a recurring theme that expresses his ego and ensures his legacy, in a location that would be visible to himself when he steps out the door of his fortress-like home on Windward Avenue. If only he would make good on his assertion to Venice Magazine in the May 2005 issue, where he was asked, "What is the role of the artist in society today?" He answered, "Always the same thing. To be able to make something that enriches peoples lives."
Lisa Ezell is a Venice resident and says she has several nudes in her art collection.
Book Report: Ghost Town, written by Pat Hartman
By Jaime Forjador
Teacher told us kids that we each had to read a book about Venice and write a two-page report about it to be read aloud in class!
I chose Ghost Town, because I thought it would be scary. Well, it was scary all right, but not because of any ghosts ('cept one).
My Mama told me that some people used to call Oakwood Ghost Town because they didn't like Black people. But Ms. Hartman says there are other reasons that some people called it Ghost Town. I only know that Mama would get really mad at me if I called it that.
Anyway, Ms. Hartman, a white lady, lived in Oakwood from 1978 to 1984. I liked reading about it because that's when my Mama and Papa, and Uncle Billy, were little kids and lived here. They liked her book and they would read it at night after I went to bed. Sometimes I would hear them laughing about something the book made them remember. Mama said it was pretty realistic.
Well, you may wonder how a white lady can write a book about Oakwood. My Uncle Billy says there weren't any white people in Oakwood back then. But he must not have known Ms. Hartman or some of her neighbors. Besides, it turns out that she had a daughter, Carla, who was not only half-Black, but liked to hang out with Cholos. Carla was deaf and her mother worried about her a lot. I think Carla had more fun going to the beach and parties and living in Oakwood than her Mama did.
Ms. Hartman worked a lot. She had at least two jobs at a time but she doesn't talk about them much. Ghost Town is all about her neighborhood in Venice. She also had a Beachhead route and helped out with art shows and stuff. Mama says what's different about us Venetians is that we work so we can live while other folk live so they can work. I think what she means is that we like to stay in Venice and play with our friends.
Ghost Town is really a book for adults cause it's got stuff about drugs and crime and bad people. But Mama says I need to know about all that before I grow up. Ms. Hartman tells about some people she knew who got really messed up on hard drugs. She wanted Carla to see that so she wouldn't try any.
She also talked about the Crips and the V13 gangs. Some of their members were nice and some were mean. Uncle Billy knows all about them but when I ask him to tell me, he says, "Mijo, you're too young for that."
According to Ms. Hartman, nearly everyone in Oakwood back then was really poor. People were always getting robbed or their apartments broken into. The only rich people were the Landladies, and they always wanted more money.
People moved around a lot too. Mama says now days we can't move because the rents are too high if you haven't lived in the same place for a long time. That's ok with me because all my friends live here.
Ms. Hartman never says exactly where she lived in Oakwood, but I know where it was. We pass by her old place when we go to the bread store on Rose. She gives some clues in the book, like the big house that used to be a store and the two alleys behind their place that go in different directions. See if you can figure it out when you read her book.
This is the longest book I have ever read. It's 542 pages! But Ms. Hartman broke it up like a journal with short stories of what happened from one day to the next, to make it easier to read. She is a really good writer. Sometimes I forgot I was reading a book and felt like I was there. Of course, if some of the people in the book, like the Houston kids, Rev. Ross or El Sordo (I don't think those are their real names) wrote a book of their own I bet it would be lots different.
Even so, Ms. Hartman tries to look at everything through other people's eyes as well as her own. But Uncle Billy says you can't really get inside someone else's head. You can't know what it's like to be homeless or what it's like to be in prison if you haven't been there. He should know!
Ms. Hartman wrote another book about Venice titled Call Someplace Paradise. While Ghost Town is all about Oakwood, her other book is all about the rest of Venice, way back when (1978-84). I want to read it too. I hope my Mama will buy it during summer vacation. She said she thinks they have it at Small World Books. If not, Ms. Hartman, has a website, www.virtualvenice.info, where you can get it.
Ms. Hartman inspired me to keep my own journal of what's happening from day to day. In a few years I'll have a book about Venice in the 21st Century!
I would recommend Ghost Town to everyone who wants to read a good book about our town. Not only did I learn a lot about Venice, especially Oakwood, but I learned a lot about people. What more can you want from a book?