The Art of Ocean Front Walk

By Della Franco

This beautiful artwork is an example of a hand-made piece of art by Jesus Leal. Jesus has been making art for 23 years. He started coming to the boardwalk of Venice in 1987.

He uses leaves found in the semi-tropical area of the Barrancas del Cobre located in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Chichuaua, Mexico.
The leaves come from a tree unlike any other, the Tampinzerano tree, whose leaves are diversely shaped, fibrous and particularly strong.

Jesus is the Eco-Artist of the 21st Century. He creates a true art form by carving with organic materials meticulous and beautiful silhouetes and life scenes. He is one of the artists who makes a visit to the Venice boardwalk an experience that it is so famous for.

From a leaf comes a story, something that stands alone in its uniqueness and surely derserves the right to be shown to the world. But you might not get a chance to see Jesus's work. He might not be on the beach today or tomorrow or the whole of summer. He might be denied the right to display his art and inspire others because Ocean Front Walk is allowing itself to be overrun with commercial vendors.

There are only so many spaces on the westside of the boardwalk and they are being eaten up by commercial vendors. Vendors who do not make their own crafts. Vendors who feed off the opportunity to set up a display of plastic crap and sell factory-made material.

These vendors are coming in droves now. The word is out. Anything goes. Just get a permit. Attend the lottery. Steal a space and you get to sell whatever shit you want to. The ordinance is still being worked on. That is the excuse the police and the Department of Recreation and Parks will say when questioned about their lack of control, their lack of interest in preserving what has been the long-standing rule of the westside of the Ocean Front Walk - NO COMMERCIAL VENDING!

The artists who need to survive on the summer flow of tourists are starving. The ones who have contributed to the entire culture of Venice are being pushed out. Vendors with an agenda to make money are thriving. Vendors with their tables, and credit card machines, with their abundant merchandise from downtown L.A. are dominating the OFW.

Tourists and locals are forced to support people with the drive to make big money in a space that is preserved for free speech and performers and artists who can make their art on the spot.

The scene is becoming more and more hostile. A sketch artist who has been coming to the OFW for many years was verbally abused for hours because another vendor selling cheap plastic bracelets did not want to move from the sketch artist’s assigned space. A fist fight almost broke out because a free speech activist was set up after 12 p.m. in a commercial vendor's space and someone selling soccer flags and umbrellas stood proudly by as the painter was forced to leave.

This is all happening because the city of L.A. is still trying to figure out how to make the ordinance constitutional while maintaining the free speech zone on the westside of the boardwalk.

What is so bothersome is how and why these commercial vendors are allowed to obtain a permit in the first place. Why are they allowed to dominate the lottery process? Why can’t the Dept. of Rec and Parks, who are supposed to be in charge, be trained to evaluate a vendor's art or craft BEFORE they can obtain a permit. Surely the new ordinance should stipulate that.

There needs to be a system set up that will protect the craftspeople and maintain the free speech zone because it is slowly becoming just another swap-meet.

Please make sure that the public’s voice is heard in this new ordinance. Don't buy from commercial vendors, write to your councilman: <>.

Demand change. Perserve the originality of our Ocean Front.

Posted: Wed - August 1, 2007 at 01:22 PM