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Chain Reaction supporters will have until Feb. 1, 2014, to raise almost as much as a half million dollars in order to prevent the sculpture from potentially being taken down.
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Chain Reaction supporters will have until Feb. 1, 2014, to raise almost as much as a half million dollars in order to prevent the sculpture from potentially being taken down.

News, City Council, Santa Monica, Art

Chain Reaction Supporters Given One Year To Raise Funds For Sculpture

Posted Jan. 25, 2013, 9:13 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

Santa Monica’s most iconic piece of public art was given a reprieve Tuesday night, as Council members granted supporters of Paul Conrad’s “Chain Reaction” an additional year to raise enough money to potentially save the nuclear mushroom peace sculpture.

The 6-1 vote means the Conrad family and community members will have until Feb. 1, 2014, to raise almost as much as a half million dollars in order to prevent the “Chain Reaction” sculpture from potentially being taken down.

According to peace activist and long-time “Chain Reaction” advocate Jerry Rubin, professional fundraiser Abby Arnold will help seek financing via private foundations, donations, and personal contributions to help preserve the sculpture.

Also, Council members voted to provide fundraising supporters with a letter of support as well as a matching dollar-for-dollar commitment from the Cultural Trust Fund “if community efforts successfully raise the amount needed to rebuild the sculpture and a contract to proceed with the work was to move forward.”

An expenditure of $20,000 was also approved to temporarily patch and secure the sculpture.

More than 20 people spoke during the public hearing, including students, former mayor Judy Abdo, and David Conrad – son of “Chain Reaction” creator Paul Conrad. The council also received letters in support of preserving the public art piece.

“I’ve heard the argument that any money spent on ‘Chain Reaction’ takes food away from the hungry or kid’s education,” Dave Conrad told Council members. “By that thinking there never would have been any money spent on public art.”

Abdo, who was mayor when the council first approved erecting “Chain Reaction” in 1990, also urged this current council to give the sculpture’s supporters more time to raise money.

Rubin, who wore a T-shirt bearing an image of the “Chain Reaction” sculpture, told Council members both the community and Conrad family “have earned more time and more City support” to preserve the sculpture.

He also presented to Council members a petition of about 300 signatures of people who supported preserving “Chain Reaction.”

“Everyone has the right to their own aesthetic,” Rubin said. “Some people hate it … but clearly it’s an important artwork. The City does have a responsibility to maintain this.”

Another former mayor – Michael Feinstein – wrote to council members that should they decide to remove “Chain Reaction,” it would only be a matter of time before City Halls yearns for a new piece of public art – which might be as costly to the City as preserving Conrad’s nuclear cloud sculpture.

“The message of peace – and of opposition to war and nuclear weapons, is timeless, and cannot be boxed, documented and put in a museum and/or on the web some where,” Feinstein stated. “If Chain Reaction was gone, wouldn't we end up thinking about some new public art component some day as that part of the Civic Center fills in, that would also cost [money]. Sometimes the greatest long-term gift is simply keeping someone (or something) alive to live another day.”

In another letter sent to Council members, art historian Carol Wells said the “Chain Reaction” is more than just a 26-foot structure in Santa Monica.

“Paul Conrad’s ‘Chain Reaction’ is not only one of the most important examples of public art in Santa Monica; it is also one of the most important anti-war sculptures in the country,” wrote Wells, who is also founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics.

The Chain Reaction is a sculpture gifted to Santa Monica in 1990 by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Paul Conrad. It is Santa Monica’s first-ever public artwork to be granted landmark status. Paul Conrad passed away in September 2010 at the age of 86.

“The work was funded by a private donation to the Santa Monica Arts Foundation of $250,000.” City staff stated. “It is important to note that in terms of Paul Conrad’s intent for the work, to the extent that it can be understood from the contract that he signed with the City, he specifically gave the City permission to move or to ‘abandon, dismantle or destroy the Work’.”

Chain Reaction had become an issue at City Hall because of long-term safety concerns associated with the work. According to City staff, the dome of the sculpture needs to be removed and either rebuilt or replaced.

City Hall estimated the cost of repair Chain Reaction would be about $227,000. A full rebuild of the sculpture could exceed $423,000, City staff stated.

“To date less than $10,000 in private funding has been secured,” City staff said. Dave Conrad added the funds rose were part of a grassroots movement with individuals contributing “to a cause they believed in.”

Though the sculpture was officially deaccessioned and therefore removed from the Santa Monica’s public art collection, City Hall is still responsible for certain maintenance costs.

In July 2012, the Landmarks Commission officially designated “Chain Reaction” as a landmark. Two months later, the Landmarks Commission declared the parcel of land surrounding the sculpture would also be designated as a landmark.

Post a comment


Jan. 25, 2013, 10:46:23 am

xboomer said...

$423,000, are you kidding! Use it for scrap metal and give the money to our schools. Or how about paving my alley.

Jan. 25, 2013, 2:00:58 pm

Charles Fredricks said...

The figure touted by City Building Officer Ron Takiguchi and oft repeated by the sculpture's critics flies in the face of the structural engineering report contracted by the city; which states the sculpture is no danger to the public and requires only maintenance, the cost being about one fifth that figure. Ron Takiguchi testified to the Council that the combined weight of the links is 10,000 pounds, without mentioning that only about a third of that weight is supported by the central column, which, constructed of stainless steel could easily support probably ten times that amount. Another criticism has centered on the idea that the fiberglass is deteriorating; which the engineer who tested it showed through slides that the fiberglass was in fact protected from deterioration by a weatherproofing layer, and was in fact okay. The desire to remove the sculpture has more to due with the City's plan to redevelop the Convention Center, and those who object to its message, using public safety issue as cover. I find this highly ironic, since the message the sculpture successfully imparts is one that motivates the viewer to a greater awareness of the fragility of our human existence in the face of the forces we have unleashed, and have yet to control.

Jan. 25, 2013, 3:51:31 pm

L. McCann said...

Take it down!

Jan. 25, 2013, 8:10:17 pm

Jerry Rubin said...

Take it down?? Hey, it's not the Berlin Wall. It is a unique and creative sculpture with a timely and important message that was a gift to Santa Monica (Cost in 1991: $250,000; Probably worth more than double that now). It could have been maintained better over the past few decades, but it is a landmark now and many, many people appreciate it.

Jan. 26, 2013, 3:11:54 am

mangeleno said...

It is fitting that an issue on which Jerry Rubin and a former Sen. James L Buckley staffer agree concerns Armageddon. Chained Reaction is an important piece of public art. The fact that it is a Landmark requires the City to perform certain maintenance on it. This the City does not wish to do. City Staff has spent quite a bit of time and quite a bit of money seeking validation for their predetermined conclusion to remove the work. When their own experts did not support their notion, did they change their minds? Hell, no, they didn't! They merely stated that their experts said "black" when they unequivocally said "white". Staff persists in touting made-up cost figures to support their predetermined conclusion to remove the artwork. Why has our City Attorney or our County District Attorney not pursued a criminal investigation of Staff who have blatantly misrepresented their own expert's conclusions in testimony before Council? This has gone beyond a matter of controversy over a piece of public art. It is now a question of who actually governs SAMO. Is it an apparently out-of-control Staff, or is it the City Council? And does the City Council have the moxie to stand up to the Staff that supposedly serves them and us? BTW - count on a contribution from my wife and I toward preserving Chain Reaction.

Jan. 26, 2013, 8:28:31 pm

Kevin J said...

Just because it is anti-war and so am I doesn't mean it is important or significant. Use that money to support worthwhile causes and take the ugly thing down ASAP. I live in SM and pay taxes and I do not support that scrap metal

Jan. 26, 2013, 11:32:33 pm

Charles Fredricks said...

Kevin J, as I stated previously, I would be happy to see Chain Reaction taken down when it has served it's purpose-- and we had disposed of nuclear weapons and shuttered our nuclear plants. Should Picasso have painted a prettier picture to commemorate Guernica? If he had, do you think it wouldn't have been covered when Colin Powell made his now infamous address to the United Nations? Our nuclear plants are targets for terrorists, susceptible to earthquakes; our thousands of nukes are still on hair trigger, susceptible to faulty launch; decommissioned Soviet nukes are watched over by poorly paid soldiers in countries bordering hostile terrorist groups; but to be reminded of any of this is irksome so we should sell it for scrap to buy some kids violins, so they can fiddle while Rome burns away. Brilliant. Let's be clear on one thing; all the testing that has been done (at considerable City expense) has only served to confirm that the structure was well made and is serviceable far into the future. The links hanging loose presently are a result of that testing, which for some reason were not re-attached. Freedom is not free, and neither is ignorance. Both have a price. What are you willing to pay?

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