I would like to share why I’m fasting even on Thanksgiving, to help save Paul Conrad’s “Chain Reaction” sculpture in Santa Monica.
Thanksgiving marks 150 days. I’ve now been fasting since June 26 to help save and restore Paul Conrad’s iconic 26-foot-tall nuclear mushroom cloud public art peace sculpture that has been standing in the Santa Monica Civic Center since 1991.
I began my liquid-only fast the day before what would have been Paul Conrad’s 88th birthday on June 27, and had planned to end my fast on September 4, the second anniversary of his passing. But my fast is now ongoing.
Paul Conrad was an amazing person and artist. He was a three-time Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist. His work for 30 years at the Los Angeles Times was often controversial, but always insightful, creative, and thought provoking.
I was fortunate to have had the honor of meeting him when the debate was going on as to whether the City of Santa Monica should accept “Chain Reaction” as a donated $250,000 public artwork, funded completely through a generous philanthropic peace donation. The Santa Monica Arts Commission voted unanimously four times recommending the City Council accept the gift. The Santa Monica City Council, in 1990, voted 4 to 3 to approve it.
When it was constructed in 1991, Paul Conrad inscribed at the base of “Chain Reaction” a most important and timely message: “This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph.”
Fast forward to late 2011. I got a call from an L.A. Times reporter. They were doing a story on “Chain Reaction”. A Santa Monica City staff person had taken a picture of some folks climbing on the sculpture, and then were preparing to initiate safety tests and restoration analysis. The first City consultant estimated it would cost between $225,000 to $425,000 to fully restore it. Then, in early 2012, the Arts Commission, due to a lack of City art restoration funding, recommended to the City Council that the sculpture be removed if the Conrad family and community couldn’t come up with the necessary funds. The Council gave November 15, 2012 as the funding deadline.
Well, you can see this puts the Conrad family and community in a bind. The City says it doesn’t have staff time to help raise private foundation funding. The Conrad family members are not professional fundraisers. I’m not a fundraiser and my peace movement friends aren’t either. But the Conrad family and others have been trying, and asking the City to help more with funding.
I began my fast as a way to hopefully urge people to contribute, as well as to urge Santa Monica to work cooperatively and comprehensively with the Conrad family to save and restore this unique and important sculpture.
The truth is my fast is really not a hardcore fast, and it’s certainly not a hunger strike. I’ve been consuming juices, broths, teas, and even an occasional Chai Soy Latte from my favorite Starbucks on the Promenade. I’ve been taking vitamin and mineral supplements, and pledge to end my fast if it appears to really be harming my health. However, it is somewhat of a sacrifice and has not been all that easy, especially with the emotional stress and worry about the future of “Chain Reaction”.
I know I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds, but I guess I had it to lose.
Whether people feel my fast is an act of commitment or foolishness, I urge everyone’s timely support. I believe in helping Santa Monica’s funding burden through small or large private funding donations. The Conrad family has set up a website for those wanting to help: www.ConradProjects.com. I hope you will visit that site soon.
But Santa Monica has a funding responsibility also, especially since “Chain Reaction” was unanimously designated as a Santa Monica City Landmark at the Landmarks Commission public meeting on July 9.
In actuality, the City has been helping by putting the donation appeal on the City website, as well as some announcements on City TV and the City’s Seascape publication. But there really needs to be a more unified, positive, and creative City/Conrad family/community joint effort to secure funding most effectively.
According to a recent report by Melvin Green and Associates, a structural engineering and historic preservation firm hired by the City, the “Chain Reaction” sculpture is “not an imminent hazard nor should it be considered dangerous.”
But, I think everyone agrees it will require substantial funding to restore it comprehensively, the way it deserves to be restored.
And the City’s idea of a safety buffer or “peace garden”, as Paul Conrad’s son David Conrad has suggested it be called, to encircle the monumental sculpture is a wonderful idea.
I now plan, health permitting, to continue my fast as an open-ended personal statement of support. I respectfully ask from our art friendly, landmark friendly, and peace friendly City of Santa Monica, that I truly love: More time, and more cooperative unity to restore “Chain Reaction.”
And, to all the people, too numerous to mention right now in this letter, who have been so supportive, let me just express my very deepest heartfelt appreciation. Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for giving!
I’d certainly like to hear personally from anyone who might be able to offer ideas or help. I can be reached at 310.399.1000 or by email at JerryPeaceActivistRubin@earthlink.net.