Venice Art Walk: Highlights and interview with curator Tessa Blumenberg

Image: Jeremy Shockley, Somebody Still Gotta Put on a Show, 2020.

Originally published in Artsy – May 8, 2020

In Venice Family Clinic’s 50th year of providing quality health care to people in need, their highly anticipated Venice Art Walk: Benefit Auction 2020 brings together an incredible group of artists for a beautifully curated auction on Artsy. The proceeds from the auction provide vital health care to nearly 28,000 low-income, uninsured and homeless patients in Los Angeles and especially during this time will help to strengthen Venice Family Clinic’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Artsy: How did you become involved with the Venice Family Clinic?

Tessa Blumenberg: Two years ago, a friend had invited me to join him on the Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auction studio tours. (Venice Art Walk was postponed this year due to COVID-19 and the auction moved online). I was managing the studio of Enrique Martínez Celaya at the time and I was intrigued how other artists modeled and organized their studios. In addition to seeing the work, I was most curious about what books they had in their bookshelves, what mementos they had lying around or hung on their walls, how they arranged their flat files, etc., so it wasn’t a hard sell to get me to go. As we went from studio to studio, chatting with the artists and fellow art walkers, I learned more about the art auction and the Clinic’s mission. It was then that I made the vow to volunteer with the auction the following year. I kept my promise.

The MarkFluctuat Nec Mergitur (Tossed But Not Sunk)
Images L to R: Enrique Martínez Celaya, The Mark, 2017; Corinne Chaix, Fluctuat Nec Mergitur (Tossed But Not Sunk), 2020.


A: In the organization’s 50th year of providing quality health care to people in need, how does Venice Family Clinic’s mission currently resonate with you and the community?

T: When I tell people I volunteer for the Clinic’s art auction, more often than not, I am confronted with a story about how the Clinic helped them at some point in their lives. It has become a resource in the community for people who really need health care but cannot otherwise afford it and it was through these conversations I realized its impact was not only evident but necessary.

A: Can you describe how the Venice Family Clinic has impacted the arts community of Venice and beyond?

T: In 1979, the Clinic was on the verge of closing its doors until a group of supporters gathered with local artists and created the first ever art walk to ensure continued medical services for the community. These artists included some of California’s best: Frank Gehry, Lita Albuquerque, John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Laddie John Dill, Ed Moses, Ed Ruscha, and more. Since its inception, Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auction has become a well-known staple in Venice; Many people anticipate the auction to buy that year’s artwork for their walls. Although there is a palpable westside vs. eastside rift in Los Angeles, it’s hard to find a Los Feliz native who doesn’t know about Venice  Art Walk and moreover, isn’t willing to take the drive to see it.

HeroZoot Suit
Images L to R: John Baldessari, Hero, 2017; Ed Ruscha, Zoot Suit, 2014.


A: There’s such a compelling variety of artworks in this year’s curated selection. What are some of your favorite pieces and artists included in this auction that you are most excited about?

T: On May 14, the brilliant arts writer and educator Jonathan T.D. Neil and I are going to chat about our favorite pieces in the auction in a Virtual Art Talk hosted by the Clinic. It felt nearly impossible to limit our selection to five, but I am most excited about the works by Enrique Martínez Celaya, Jeremy Shockley, Carissa Potter, Kelly Lamb and Corinne Chaix to name a few.

Image: Jeremy Shockley, Somebody Still Gotta Put on a Show, 2020.

A: As part of the Venice Family Clinic’s Curatorial Committee, what have you found to be the most interesting part of the curatorial process?

T: The Clinic has a very special team that works on the art auction. I believe their enthusiasm, devotion and care is a testament to the organization. While I enjoy bringing some experience from the artworld to the artwork selection process, it has been the friendships gained and the deepening of my roots in the Venice Beach community that has impacted me the most.