Lynn Warshafsky, Founder / Executive Director of Venice Arts, has a passion for education and mentoring programs for youth and low-income families in Los Angeles. Consisting of exhibitions, film screenings and youth workshops, VA’s mission has come to life during its 23 year lifetime.

In addition to leading Venice Arts, Lynn is a Board Officer of the Social Change Institute. She is a member of the Youth Media Steering Committee of NAMAC (National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture), the National Guild for Community Arts Education, and the California Alliance for Arts Education. Furthermore, she has been an organization development consultant for more than 20 years, consulting for arts and human service organizations, foundations, academic institutions, and governmental agencies. With all these accomplishments and more, Warshafsky, hopes to make a lasting institution for as long as she can.

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Rivo: Venice Arts is committed to providing a platform for artists’ voices to be heard who are largely unrepresented by the more traditional media channels, both in LA and worldwide.  What makes hearing a diverse array of stories such a vital component to creating a balanced society – especially in Los Angeles cultural tapestry?

Lynn: We believe that there is a power when people are equipped to tell their own stories. We don’t know the textures of the city unless we hear about the different stories and humanity of these people.

Rivo: Specifically, you have a monthly “Women’s Voices on Screen” campaign that draws attention to females in the film industry. Why do you strive to be inclusive of the female experience and what message do you hope to convey to the female community in Venice / LA? 

Lynn: It’s important to emphasize our partnership with Women’s Voices Now, a film organization committed to uplifting voices of women around the world, especially the marginalized stories that are not often told. The notions of lifting unheard voices is central to our mission as well. So we had that connection. Our youth program includes children in poverty and low-income families so their mission resonated with ours. This is our sixth month with Women’s Voices Now and it’s been wonderful to bring documentary storytelling to diverse regions of the world.

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Rivo: How did you become acquainted with Women’s Voices Now?

Lynn: We found them and figured we could both bring something to the table in terms of our reach and engagement with a young audience. It’s a great partnership.

Have there been any recent screenings that you have felt are particularly powerful and have had a lasting impact on people’s perspectives?

Lynn: Our first screening of India’s Daughter was very powerful. It was about rape and sexual assault, which is also very globally relevant.

Rivo: Recently Venice Arts hosted the Power and Persistence exhibition (co-organized by the Liberty Hill Foundation), where Warren Hill shoots portraits of grassroots community groups and blues musicians. What was it like having an Emmy award winning cameraman work with Venice Arts?

Lynn: We are very very lucky. We have all sorts of extraordinary artists. We feel like at the heart of our organization is access, equity, and justice for low income kids, especially through the arts and media making.

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Rivo: What is your vision for Venice Arts? What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years? 

Lynn: Venice Arts is 23 years old already. So there’s a number of things. One, we want to assure that we’ll remain in Venice. We want to create a lasting institution, especially our youth serving program. Secondly, how we’re going to expand and further our mission. We work with 400 children and more than half live in poverty, but we have to turn 150 away each year.

And this is actually the interesting thing. The majority of these kids come from Venice but a lot of them are from all over Los Angeles.

Rivo: Tell us about what you’re doing today to encourage voting amongst Venice residents.

Thanks to a generous grant from LA2050, we will be throwing a #PartyatthePolls. Not only will Venice Arts be serving as a polling place for the California Primary Elections on June 7th, we will also be hosting a professionally run photo booth to capture the many different reasons people vote. The #VeniceVotes project will become a living album of portraits that speaks to the uniqueness of Venice and the vital importance of civic engagement.

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