Tag Archives: Venice

Parkinson’s artist

Johnny Huerta now paints with his left hand. Parkinson’s attacked his right.

“Parkinson’s affects different people in different ways,” says Johnny, an artist from Santa Monica. “Mine is rigidity more than anything.”

A graduate from Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art in Van Nuys, Johnny, 32, did a mural in Casa Blanca restaurant in Venice, but mostly he sells paintings online.

He’s a local who played baseball for Santa Monica High School’s winning 2007 team. He sometimes works as a waiter at his family-owned restaurant Gilbert’s El Indio Mexican restaurant.

He’s right-handed. He noticed soreness three years ago but shrugged it off thinking it was just due to his heavy art workload while working on his bachelor’s degree in art.

Eventually, he realized it was more than simple soreness. “It was not like pain, it was a malfunction. It was scarier than a pain,” he says. “It wasn’t working the way it was supposed to.”

Parkinson’s is rare in younger people. But the brain scan showed dopamine deficiency, an early sign of Parkinson’s. Was his art career doomed?

Johnny didn’t waste time getting down about misfortune. He immediately started working on painting with his left hand. He’s semi-ambidextrous. He paints with his left now, sometimes guiding it with his right.

“You hear how you lose one sense and you gain another. It’s kind of like that. I’ve always done some things left-handed,” he says. “I batted left-handed and threw right-handed. I don’t know why. It was just natural.”

Johnny recently posted a time-lapsed video on Instagram @j_huerta310 of him painting a metaphor for his Parkinson’s. The painting served as a backdrop illustration for a speech he made in August to 500 youth at a church conference in Bakersfield. He told kids to not be held down by different difficulties and trials.

“We all go through fiery trials and tribulations, but they don’t have to define who we are,” Johnny says. “When something negative happens to us, we’re not rejected, we’re not a failure. I liked sports. In sports, there’s always a challenge, always something you have to persevere through. You have to adapt. It tests your faith and builds character.”

Johnny says the impairment won’t lessen the quality of his work.

“Maybe it’ll be less refined,” he says. “But there are beautiful pieces of art that are a lot more loose and there’s beautiful pieces of art that are a lot more refined. But yes, I probably have had to loosen my approach and brushwork, but that doesn’t mean the quality has go down.”

Johnny was so painfully shy in his childhood that teachers wondered if he was abused at home.

“I was always a quiet kid to the point in the elementary school teachers thought something was wrong with me. I was deathly afraid to say something stupid.” Read the rest: Parkinson’s artist

Cleaning up the homeless in Venice, CA?

About once a week, one homeless man or woman dies in Venice, CA.

That’s Michael Ashman’s tally. At least three times a week, Ashman hands out free food, clothes, and Bibles at Muscle Beach, which is often filled with tourists and eclectic street performers.

This area – until recently cleaned up by Sheriff’s deputies – has been thronged with homeless and criminals.

“When people say we have a ‘homeless problem’, that tells me they don’t have a clue; it’s a human problem, not a homelessness problem,” Ashman, 57, told God Reports. “There are all kinds of reasons people are homeless. Then you throw alcohol and drugs into the mix. But Jesus is the answer. He’s the One who’s going to heal their minds and set them free.”

For three years, Michael has ministered to the homeless. Arguably, homeless ministry is prone to burnout because positive results are few and far between, while death and destruction abound. The homeless, he says, have zero self-control and consequently get devastated by addiction, violence and disease.

“Every now and then, someone comes by and says, ‘Do you remember me? You fed me. You helped me,’” Michael says.

One such was Ivan, who once slept on the beach because of Southern California’s year-round temperate climate. One day he arrived cleaned-up and smiling. He had a small place and two jobs. The day he greeted Ashman, he was handing out clothes to his street friends, paying forward the favors.

Native to Southern California, Ashman got to know Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade at age 15. He got off drugs and was attending church but was “too young and not very involved,” he says.

In 1996, he got married and had kids but walked away from church and lost his marriage. He didn’t immediately come back to church because guilt coiled in his heart like a snake.

“I’d gone too far,” he explains. “I looked in the mirror every day and said, ‘God, what am I doing? I’m killing myself.’”

On Valentine’s Day in 2016, Ashman returned to church after “my life pretty much fell apart.”

He sat in the back and wept. He kept going to church “and wept every service for quite a while,” he says. “God was fixing me.”

Eventually, he launched his ministry, a 501c3 titled “You Matter.” He wears “You Matter” T-shirts on outreach, and it’s a good message to people that society has cast aside, fears and finds revolting.

“I just felt like this is what God wanted me to do,” Ashman says. “It was so powerful in me. It was beyond passionate, it was a driving force. I couldn’t not do it. I feel Jesus in me, and He loves people through me.”

For most of his life, Ashman worked as a contractor and a phone and computer communications installer, but as his non-profit has taken off, he’s neglected his business and given himself more and more to ministry.

While politicians promote social theories for dealing with the homeless, Ashman says only Jesus can truly change them.

Recently, the L.A. Sheriff ignited a spat with the mayor’s office by publicly accusing politicians of being incompetent and making an incursion into Venice to get the homeless off the streets. As a result, fewer homeless are coming to Ashman’s ministry. He fears that… Read the rest: homeless in Venice