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Meet Robin Murez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robin Murez.

Robin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I returned to Venice 20 years ago, with my Public Art career in full swing, in other cities, and with a broken heart. With that, I threw myself into my work, in a community that was familiar to me, but where I felt alone and unknown. A friend gave me a lot on Abbot Kinney Boulevard on which I built my studio and sculpture garden. In those days, just covering the insurance on the lot was sufficient. Abbot Kinney Boulevard was not the destination it has become. Though my space was quite phenomenal and on a public street, it was like a hidden gem. Those who ventured in found my large and small sculptures, figurative and abstract, within the wild tropical garden. In later years, in evenings and for festivals, one could discover the magic of aerialists flying while wonderful live music played, a bonfire burned and lights twinkled in the grassy amphitheater I sculpted in the land. It was quite a sensational one ring circus for 13 years.

Through those years, I continued to do Public Art Commissions for other cities, including Oakland, Napa, Houston and St. Louis. I collaborated on the creation of the legendary City Museum StL and installed sculptural installations in the Metro, parks, and street corners.

Seven years ago, an architect in Venice invited me to teach at Otis College of Art & Design. That continues to be a wonderful experience… The students and faculty are creative and welcoming. Neighbors can join my annual “Moving Art” class as we represent Otis in artistic and socially engaging ways in the Westchester Fourth of July Parade.

Before all this: I grew up in West L.A.. went to high school in France, college in the East, and spent 15 years as an attorney for professional athletes. I initially represented women athletes to help enable social change. Later I worked with NBA basketball players and produced PGA golf tournaments. When I moved from Rochester, NY to St. Louis, MO for my then spouses work, I seized the opportunity to go back to school and get my art degree. I immediately began receiving public art commissions and have never looked back.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being part of the enormous metropolis of Los Angeles, and with my art-world ties elsewhere, finding community in Venice has been a slow process. Similarly, creating Public Art, even to make the neighborhood safer and cleaner, has also been challenging. To transform a dangerous and dilapidated street corner near my house, I applied to the City of L.A. for a little grant and permits. Much to my surprise, and in contrast with my experiences in other cities, the red tape in L.A. caused that little corner park project to drag out 12 years, with me having to navigate far more of the bureaucracy than I would ever have hoped. I was finally able to complete it: The Venice Corner Ball Park is at the corner of South Venice Boulevard at Ocean Avenue.

On another occasion, I was once arrested for painting pretty little blue waves on the streets that were once canals. When the Assistant City Attorney heard my case, she too was outraged and offered to try to help me get permits.

Despite the obstacles, I persevere. It’s in my blood. I’m not one to build a tall fence and let the community outside be a mess. And I don’t like seeing the colorful history of Venice become lost in the trendy gentrification of the neighborhood. What Abbot Kinney build was visionary.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’ve been creating a series of interactive, no-tech sculptures installed on street corners of Venice – where permits are not an issue – that bring out colorful stories of Venice’s history. They’re in plain view, but subtle and unexpected. Along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, you can find my Main Street circa 1910 Peep Hole Box, Charlie Chaplin Zoetrope and the Coin Toss Thaumatrope. My anamorphic portrait of Abbot Kinney has been called the best mural in Venice. It’s a magical portrait of a man who created magic. I painted on the sidewalk; you view its reflection in a mirrored column. On Main Street, just South of the Google building, I installed my life size Camel Group. It’s a recreation of a postcard of Venice when we had live camel rides. Some sculptures are not currently on view. I have to educate new merchants on Abbot Kinney about the uniqueness of our community.

I’m currently creating a slightly larger interactive, Venice themed sculpture for Centennial Park, by the public library on Venice Boulevard: The Venice Flying Carousel. It will be a bicycle propelled full-scale merry-go-round that 15 adults and children can ride at a time. As Venice families “adopt” the animals on the carousel, they collaborate with me on their designs, they name them, and will ride them for free, for the next 100 years. That is helping to fund the carousel. I work pro-bono and am expecting the City to chip in. Venice had fantastic carousels, as well as beautiful canals, a saltwater plunge, a miniature train, huge rollercoasters and cultural events. I think it’s time we have a carousel again, to celebrate (and hold onto) our unique community.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I am most proud when people enjoy my work. Often times people in Venice will say: “Oh, you did that sculpture? I love it. I bring all my friends to see it.” Riding down the street I’m thrilled to see people stopping to peek or spin my sculptures and then bring their friends to do it too.

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Image Credit:
Robin Murez

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