Seeking out Ventura’s Artistic Underground
Peaceful and quirky. Surrounded by nature. Close to LA but far from the chaos. It’s no wonder Ventura is a haven for artists. What’s a greater wonder is how often this amazing resource often gets overlooked when imagining this special place.
When we think of what’s great about Ventura, we remember the sunny, uncrowded beaches, bustling Downtown, family fun of the Harbor, and rugged adventure of the Channel Islands. But with so many creatives calling this coastal community home, it’s no wonder there’s more to the picture.
Follow us here for a trip to Ventura’s vibrant art and music scene, and rich local history. Go beyond the conventional Ventura, and explore the artsy underground just below the surface that so many travellers miss.
The first place to look is where the artists live. On the First Friday of the month, the residents of grassroots artist’s space Bell Arts Factory open their doors. Come and peruse the new pieces in the gallery and see where the artists work. Everything from ceramicists, to painters, to draftsmen, to writers make their studios in this massive space, and exploring it is an adventure in itself. Pour a glass of wine and pick up a slice of pie from the hearse parked out front from local roving patisserie Desserts to Die For. This is a great time to purchase new work and talk to local artists directly.
Looking for more great local art? Head down the street to Art City Studios, the sanctuary for local sculptors, or over to the Working Artists of Ventura (the WAV), an artist living and working space that opens its doors during First Friday of the month, just as Bell Arts does. Green Art People hosts live music and community art projects every Wednesday night, a particular favorite event for locals. Ventura’s yearly Art Walk brings all the artists and craftspeople of Ventura out of the woodwork–walk or shuttle around Downtown and the Avenue to see everything from jewelry, to stone carving, to mosaics.
Interested in theater? Ventura is home to the award winning Rubicon Theatre, a professional theatre company featuring actors who operate in the entire Los Angeles area. Located in a gorgeous historic brick building, this theatre is an easy walk to Downtown, but located out of the main bustle. For a more casual theatre experience, The Ventura Improv Company features fun, family-friendly showings every Friday and Saturday at 8pm and is located right in the heart of Downtown.
If music is more your jam, be sure to check out what’s playing at local venue Majestic Ventura Theatre. Summer is an amazing time for music in Ventura, with Ventura Music Festival, Music Under the Stars, Tequila & Taco Music Festival, and The Roadshow Revival, a Johnny Cash tribute festival, all rolling out in our busiest months. For a more classical twist, The Gold Coast Concert Chorus features over 120 members and performs an eclectic mix of choral music.
If you’re into culture, Ventura’s rich local history is a must-see. While the historic San Buenaventura Mission in Downtown, including adjoining church with original architecture, is a mainstay of the visitor experience, the Dudley House is less so. A hidden gem, the Dudley House is a restored farmhouse built in 1892, complete with historical furniture and decorations. It is open for docent tours the first Sunday of every month. Stop in at our visitor’s center to pick up a copy of Ventura’s Historic Walking Tour and see all the classic historical sites around Downtown, many with architecture dating back to the turn of the century and earlier, including the Erle Stanley Gardner Building, First Post Office, Albinger Archaeological Museum, and A.J. Comstock Fire Museum.
Of late, Ventura has blossomed with murals. Beautiful murals have long been a part of our history (and documented that history), but recently sometimes unconventional palettes across Ventura have been painted with happy art of all kinds — from electric boxes with bright yellow bees (Bee Happy!) to the sides of restaurants (Danny’s Deli & Grill and Rincon Brewery). Everywhere around town, testaments to creativity and the sheer joy of our moments spent in this life.
Free-form, cutting-edge art. And, no doubt, more to come.
If you know where to look, the cultural underground is all over Ventura. They key is meeting the creatives where they’re already at. Home to a ton of artist, actors, chefs, and musicians, Ventura is bubbling with creative energy that is far different from the sand-and-palm-tree-lined exterior visitors usually see–although there’s no reason you can’t do both. The creators usually do.
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