By SAM CATANZARO| Art and its impact on local culture is much more than just the painting of paintings, drawings of drawings and sculpting of sculptures. Studies have found that art can be used to treat an array of issues people face. These include coping with stress, working through traumatic experiences and improving cognitive abilities. A group of street artists in Venice, recognizing the utility of art, are hoping to use art to help tackle homelessness.
The Setting the Pace Foundation (STP Foundation), known for operating the Venice Art Walls by the beach, recently created a new public art space on Third Avenue behind the Google building. This stretch of Third Avenue has developed a negative reputation in the community due to the high number of homeless individuals who occupy the block. STP Foundation, however, is hoping this public art space will help change this perception.
“We want to see a change in the culture on Third Avenue to where people will make this street synonymous with color and with art,” said Bruno Hernandez, Executive Director of STP Foundation. “This is a challenging street. We figured we would bring color to it, life to it and eventually our goal is to bring more programming to it and offer more solutions and help to the residents and community at large.”
STP Foundation was founded in 1987 in Venice by a group of creatives and artists and has been involved in a wide-range of projects including murals and community restoration. In addition, STP mentors and educates both youth and adults on graffiti abatement, gang intervention and youth development.
“Even though this is graffiti art, the goal is to help kids not go and write on walls illegally. We try to provide them a place where they can come and do it,” Hernandez said. “More often than not they just want to paint. If you don’t give them a place to paint they are going to paint somewhere illegally. Our goal is to provide them with more and more places to do their craft.”
The art on the new Third Avenue wall may be eye-catching but because of the nature of street art, is not meant to be permanent. Hernandez does not see the art wall as a mural, but rather as a public place for people to blow off steam and be creative.
“It’s just a place to be creative, interact with other artists, network and try different mediums,” Hernandez said. “We provide places where anybody with any skill level can come, get creative and be themselves.”
While STP Foundation still only has these public art spaces in Venice, they are hoping that if the Third Avenue art wall is successful, it will become a model that other cities can adopt when tackling homelessness.
“After three years, we are going to reevaluate it, see what we did right, see what we did wrong and hopefully this will be transformed into something great,” Hernandez said. “Once we are done with this we are hoping it will become a model people can take into any urban city.”