Operating out of the early 20th-century Venice City Hall building, Beyond Baroque is a beloved cultural mainstay in Los Angeles. Founded by high school teacher George Drury Smith in 1968, the venture was initially a poetry magazine before Smith established a brick and mortar presence dedicated to all things literary.
Beyond Baroque has since evolved into one of the city’s most vital public locales for the arts and culture, housing tens of thousands of archived books and a notable book store. The center additionally hosts an impressive program of workshops, book and poetry readings, performances, and educational events.
From obscure writings to visual art and music, Beyond Baroque is an enduring supporter of local culture in the storied Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. It all began as a passion project for George Drury Smith, who kickstarted Beyond Baroque with a series of public poetry readings from the print shop he rented to produce his magazine, also entitled Beyond Baroque.
Even in its nascent days, Beyond Baroque quickly amassed a loyal following. Upon transplanting the operation to Venice City Hall in 1979, Smith cultivated an even larger collection of poetry books, exhibited art in the new space, and expanded the roster of public programming. Major artists like Patti Smith and Viggo Mortensen have since performed on-site.
In 1998, Beyond Baroque Books was launched with a focus on alternative, lesser-known, and emerging writers. The bookstore has grown to offer a notable collection of new poetry and CDs, while some 40,000 limited-edition and small-press books and publications preserve the history of poetry in Los Angeles.
Though Beyond Baroque celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018, not much has changed; the center’s mission remains to serve as a community platform for sharing awareness and knowledge of literary history and rising talents in music, poetry, art, and beyond. Executive Director Richard Modiano oversees the continuation of the original Wednesday Night Poetry Workshops that began in 1969, and regular poetry readings, exhibitions, and cultural events are still hosted at the space—approximately 200 per year.