“What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and toward the miraculous. The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has more force…Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical. We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory…” –Jeanette Winterson
If you live in the Los Angeles area, you likely know all too well the tourist hot spot called Venice Beach. The popularity of Venice Beach can more specifically be attributed to the 2.5 mile Ocean Front Walk that takes on a carnival like atmosphere with endless sightings of the outlandish, the amazing, and the breath-taking. According to the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, every year an average of over 10 million visitors come to soak up the sun, some fun, and the spirit of Southern California.
As a college student in Los Angeles, I spent a fair share of my time at Venice Beach. I mean, what’s not to love about going to the beach. In addition, the unique vibe of Venice Beach made it an ideal place to find amusement in the odd and quirky. As hard as it is to admit, during those years my perspective of many of the people of saw there came from a place of scrutiny and pity. I thought about how sad and difficult it was for someone to make stuff out of trash just to get some money to survive. I viewed paintings that I couldn’t relate to as weird or a representation of the strange thoughts of the downtrodden artist. Looking back to my attitude of that time, it appears that part of my reasons for going to Venice Beach was to entertain myself but unwittingly at the expense of the dignity of others. Though I never verbally expressed nor treated the “unfortunate” with disdain, my internal conversation certainly weighed heavy with my own arrogance.
Now I experience Venice Beach in a profoundly different way. The one of a kind atmosphere is still the same but there is a frequency that I seem to tap into that makes it feel like community, or a hub. Here are 5 ways that Venice Beach, in my view, is spiritual hot spot.
Global Gathering Center
It’s impossible to stroll among the crowd at Venice Beach and not recognize that people from all corners of the world are sharing the space. Australians, Asians, Africans, Europeans, and Islanders (just to name a few) vacation from their homelands and converge in this very place to take in all that it has to offer. It’s not difficult to make a distinction between the locals and tourists if you focus on attire, language, and mannerisms. However, if you allow yourself to see the curiosity, laughter, and togetherness, there is no distinction at all. When people stop to marvel at the musical talents of an 8-year-old boy, it matters not from where we came. We all give the same warm smile of pride for a younger version of us doing something courageous for a worldly audience.
Fair Exchange Vulnerability
With so many street vendors selling wares and performers collecting donations in hats or cans, the economic exchange is unmistakable. However, something more is exchanged with every transaction. A large number of the vendors are selling handcrafted items of their own artistic expression. This means that they are sharing a piece of themselves. It’s personal. Each time someone makes a purchase or contributes to the collection hat, it demonstrates recognition, validation, and acceptance for the artist. In this way, it‘s not just about money.
A common phrase heard amongst the crowd at Venice Beach is, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all…” The creative process is in and of itself a spiritual process. The artists along Ocean Front Walk exemplify artistic innovation with their bodies, paints, words, natural materials, sounds, and stuff that others overlooked as items to be discarded. In the words of Plato, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Let’s face it, some of the artists tap into their ability to innovate and see the extraordinary in the mundane. Too many of us take for granted our privilege and allow our creativity to escape us even though we all have the capability.
Spending time at Venice Beach gives way to the feeling that anything is possible. Scraps of trash can give birth to beauty. Strangers who speak different languages can laugh together. Old school basketball players can run a game with new school ballers. Elderly men defy the biological clock by building impressive muscle and strength. There is no shortage of small miracles that take place at Venice Beach. It just requires an open mind and heart; a willingness to embrace possibilities.
Commune with Nature
All of the things listed about happen with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, the sandy shore, and swaying palm trees with ocean waves as the soundtrack. Enough said.
Coming to Venice Beach now feels like connection to humanity. For me, it’s a reminder to suspend my beliefs and expand my awareness to make even more room for acceptance. It’s a place that suggests how differences can ironically bring about a commonality and sameness with others. Venice Beach transformed my arrogance to humility because it is indeed a spiritual hot spot that’s not to be missed.