More than 25 years ago, Chamber member Tim Rudnick had an idea that sounded more than a little impractical. He wanted to build a museum without walls – an organization that could host events whenever and wherever it needed to go. Educating the public and inspiring children were the important parts – a permanent address might come later.
Rudnick launched the Venice Oceanarium in 1995. As a Venice native, he had a deep and enduring love for the area. The Oceanarium was formed to inform locals and tourists about Venice’s unique aquatic culture through events on Venice Beach and the Venice Pier. The Oceanarium got its first bit of fame through its annual readings of Moby-Dick – powering through 500+ pages in a single weekend. Later on, the Oceanarium expanded its repertoire to other nautical-themed works of literature, including The Tempest and Cannery Row.
Perhaps one of the Oceanarium’s most important initiatives is its Grunion parties. The Grunion is a small, sardine-sized fish native to Southern California. Grunion females wiggle out of the sea and onto the sand to lay their eggs. Grunion males follow afterward, hoping to find a target to fertilize. The Oceanarium hosts annual parties to witness this miracle of life.
The Oceanarium has a regular presence on the Venice Pier, hosting small exhibits for interested pedestrians. Volunteers use bottled specimens, shark jaws, microscopes, and even a few dried crabs to give people an up-close look at the marine population. The Oceanarium, however, isn’t limited to the pier. In keeping with its core mission to educate kids, they host after-school events at Westminster Elementary, Mark Twain Middle School, and nearby Recreations and Park Community Centers.
Even though the Oceanarium’s founding concept was as a museum without walls, there are undeniable benefits to having a permanent structure. Rudnick is looking to build a small museum on the vacant end of the Venice Pier – with a touch tank and saltwater fountain to help build awareness and to represent all that the organization offers. He is currently soliciting donations to start the process. With or without walls, however, the Oceanarium is here to stay.
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