Russell Hunziker Inspires Palisades Village Green Art Show

By Lila Seidman
Special to the Palisades News

About five or six years ago, Palisadian Russell Hunziker was driving up the coast and pulled into the Malibu Nature Preserve, where the Allied Artists of the Santa Monica Mountains and Seashore happened to be having an art show.

The impact on Hunziker, a mostly self-trained artist, was immediate: “I was quite taken with the quality of work and the mission they were trying to do.” He joined the alliance that day.

Founded two decades ago by Malibu-based artist Pat Ryan, Allied Artists fuses art and environmental conservancy. Members gather at monthly “paint outs” to commit to the canvas the splendor of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area—including locales in or near the Palisades—and then exhibit and sell the works to educate the public about conservancy issues and raise money to donate to relevant organizations.

Russell Hunziker, a member of Allied Artists, paints on the bluffs. Photo: Matthew Stockman
Russell Hunziker, a member of Allied Artists, paints on the bluffs.
Photo: Matthew Stockman

Hunziker pitched a novel idea to the Allied Artists board three years ago: to host an Allied Artists show to benefit a green space close to his heart (and home), the Palisades Village Green. The board was immediately receptive, but the show’s roll-out was delayed by logistical snafus.

On July 16, Hunziker’s long-incubating idea is finally coming to fruition, with a sale and exhibit set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Village Green (corner of Swarthmore and Antioch).

“I think it fits into our overall mission to preserve open spaces,” Hunziker said, acknowledging that the Village Green seems physically anomalous when compared to the imposing mountains and seashore on which Allied Artists focuses much of its conservancy efforts.

He added that the Village Green, which is privately owned and supported entirely by donations, is “kind of a hub of the community”—a welcoming environment for coffee drinkers, paper readers, casual strollers, and after-school hanger-outers.

At the end of each year, the Allied Artists board donates part of its collective proceeds to organizations that share its vision, including the National Park Service and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. This year, it will also give a portion of its art-earned money to the Village Green.

Twelve artists, including Hunziker and fellow Palisadian JoAnne Unger, will be exhibiting their work at the upcoming Village Green show.

Allied Artists currently has about 20 ac- tive members, which Hunziker describes as an eclectic mix, in terms of their artistic aesthetic, skill level and vocation. One member is in the printing business; others are in film production and set design. Some are retired mothers and teachers; one owns a bed and breakfast in Topanga Canyon. Some paint as a hobby; others are working artists.

Hunziker himself adds a unique personal history to the group. A former aerospace engineer, or “rocket scientist” as he likes to tell people, Hunziker grew up near Santa Barbara, where he met his wife Elisa, a native Palisadian.

When it came time to raise to raise a family, she insisted, “We have to live in the Palisades,” he said. They moved to Grenola Street (near Las Pulgas Canyon) in 1986 and have been there ever since. Their two daughters Lauren and Emily went to Marquez, Paul Revere and Palisades High School and then attended art schools. Their neighbors include Bob and Marge Gold, who are Village Green board members.

Art “ran in my family,” Hunziker said. His mother was an artist and he had two artistically inclined aunts. His talents bloomed late. About 15 years ago, he picked up painting— focusing on watercolors and acrylics—as a hobby. Since retiring a year ago, he said he’s become a much more prolific painter.

Allied Artists typically holds four shows a year, at places including the Malibu Nature Preserve, Will Rogers State Historic Park and the King Gillette Visitor Center.

Hunziker hopes the Village Green show will join the group’s roster of annual events. “Having a beautiful, well-maintained green space right in the middle of town—it’s very important,” he said. “Even though we’re a part of the giant metropolis of Los Angeles, the Green makes it feel like a real community.” Hunziker has a solo exhibit currently running at King Gillette through July 31. The exhibit, “A Walk with Nature,” was inspired by the writings of John Muir and features his plein-air and studio landscape paintings of the Santa Monica Mountain and Santa Cruz Island.

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