Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight shines on Venice Arts Council’s Co-Founder Suzanne Thompson.

Tell us about the work your organization does and the programs you run?

The Venice Arts Council (VAC) founded by Emily Winters and myself in 2005, is an all volunteer group that produced art shows, live performances, workshops, films, public art restoration projects and the creation and publication of a book to support public art tile benches in Venice. I chair the Endangered Art Fund which works to preserve and protect public art in Venice. We have focused on two iconic murals, the Venice Beach Poets Monument and Art Tile Benches on Venice Beach. VAC has worked closely with Beyond Baroque and SPARC and in coalition with other organizations across the city such as the Mural Working Group. We continue to serve as founding members on the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) Committee.

Regina Barton, Suzanne Thompson and Emily Winters

How did the organization start?  Where did the idea or inspiration come from?

After serving on the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council, Emily Winters and I felt the need to continue our work in Venice focusing on the arts. The Venice Community Housing agreed to serve as our fiscal sponsor.

How did you come up with the name of your nonprofit?

We had a Neighborhood Council, so we wanted an Arts Council.

Small World Bookstore gathering for Art Tile book signing.  Photo courtesy of Venice Arts Council

What would you say is the best thing about your organization?

We get things done!  We have been meeting monthly for years and have created long lasting friendships.

What has been your greatest reward of running your nonprofit?

Seeing the completion of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument. Receiving a grant from the Venice Neighborhood Council for $20,000 to restore two murals in Venice.

What have been your biggest challenges?

Maintenance of public art on the boardwalk. The wear and tear from use and the weather, salt air and sand, and graffiti is really hard on public art at the beach.

The Venice Beach Poets Monument on Venice Beach!  Photo courtesy of Venice Arts Council

What do you personally spend most of your time on?

The Venice Beach Poets Monument Restoration project and the VJAMM Committee.

How long have you been in business, and how has your organization changed or grown over time?

We are going on 15 years. We expanded our work to include the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM)

The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) sits on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards. The 9′ 6″ tall solid black granite obelisk marks the spot where some 1,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu lined up with only what they could carry in April, 1942. Buses transported them directly to Manzanar.

What are your goals for the next three to five years?

To continue our work with Recreation and Parks, the Business Improvement District (BID), elected officials and the community to maintenance and protect public art on Venice Beach.  We will continue our educational outreach and maintenance programs with the VJAMM Committee.

What support do you need? How can one help your organization?

We are raising funds to support:

  1. The completion and maintenance of the Venice Beach Poets Monument
  2. The removal of graffiti and applying protective coating on the Endangered Species Mural on Park and Ocean Front Walk and Jaya Mural on Dell and S. Venice Blvd.
  3. Continued restoration of Art Tile Benches on Ocean Front Walk.

Tax deductible contributions can be made to VCH/VAC PO Box 993 Venice, CA 90294

Endangered Species Mural by Emily Winters

What advice would you give someone starting their own non profit?

Be sure you understand what your purpose is, how non-profits work and put the right team together.

2017 International Women’s Day Celebration.  Photo courtesy of Venice Arts Council


Define success:

Being happy with what you do to make the world a better place.

List 1-2 things on your bucket list, and 1-2 things on your Venice bucket list.
  1. Visit Death Valley
  2. Meet Joni Mitchell
  3.  Create a beautiful space around the VJAMM, with trees, benches and more art.
  4. For the City to allocate more funding for Venice Beach public art creation and maintenance.
Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote?

Live simply so that others may simply live.  ART = LIFE.

Favorite book, band or movie?

Too many to mention but, at first thought…. loved the books Color Purple and The Shock Doctrine; band, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, and Neal Young; movies The Party, To Sir With Love and Green Book

What other causes do you support?

In 2015, I founded the Arts and Cultural Bridge Foundation to foster opportunities for artistic, educational and cultural exchanges between artists, organizations and institutions, from the United States and Cuba.

Jaya Mural on Dell and S. Venice Blvd.  Mural by Emily Winters

Where do you find inspiration?

Where do you find inspiration?   From small but significant victories. I also find joy in working in community and in seeing the empowerment of youth and women.

How do you treat yourself on your days off?

Working in the garden. It really centers me, and I love to watch things grow.

Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world? Fun facts or accomplishments.

I have enjoyed working on radio and film documentaries as an executive producer, producer, associate producer and music supervisor on; a feature documentary film “From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks: The Life and Times of Harry Bridges”, viewed by millions on PBS for 3 years over Labor Day and its companion soundtrack “Step by Step”; two short docs films “An Appeal For Justice: The Case of the Cuban 5” and “Maestra” about the Cuban Literacy Campaign and feature doc film “Embargo” on US foreign policy and the US trade embargo on Cuba.


Describe Venice:

Venice is constantly changing with lots of interesting history to preserve. When I moved to Venice over 30 years ago, things were much different. I was in a relationship and we did a lot of socializing with our friends. Parties with dancing and lots of fun folks. Many have died or moved out as we can’t afford the high rents.

Describe your perfect day in Venice:

A cup of good coffee at Venice Cucina and chat with Sasha, a walk on the beach or pier, huevos rancheros at El Tarasco, securing a pledge of $10,000 in support of the Venice Beach Poets Monument Restoration Project from Councilman Bonin, celebrating with friends with a Moscow Mule at Mercedes Grill and quesadilla’s at Canal Club. Listening to the BBC on the radio as I fall to sleep in bed.

What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?

To see the smile on the face of a 5th grader who made a tile for the Venice Beach Poets Monument.

Esther Chaing and Suzanne Thompson at the annual Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Fundraiser at Hama Sushi.

Favorite Venice go-to spots?

Hotel Erwin’s Roof Top for drinks, James Beach for fish tacos, Hama Sushi for sushi, Small World Books, Venice Pier or boardwalk to relax or be entertained.

Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?

Carlos Rogel acting director at SPARC

Emily Winters, Suzanne Thompson andRegina Barton at the 2009 Venice Arts Council Endangered Art Fund. Champagne Brunch. View 2009 photos here.

Any shoutouts or thank you’s?

Thank you to:  Steve, Becky and Pricilla at Venice Community Housing, Councilman Bonin and Bob Davis, Supervisor Recreation and Parks Venice Beach, for their continued support for the work of the Venice Arts Council. And, especially to my friend Emily Winters, fantastic visual artist whom I have enjoyed collaborating with artistically and politically in Venice for over 20 years.

Venice Beach Poets Monument Benefit in 2012. View 2012 pics by Venice Paparazzi.


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