By Jerry Rubin and Marissa Rubin
Paul Conrad’s 26-foot tall nuclear mushroom cloud peace sculpture ‘Chain Reaction’, which has now been fully refurbished, is still standing in the Santa Monica Civic Center, where it has been proudly standing since 1991. That’s when Paul Conrad, the 3-time Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist, created the unique 5.5 ton sculpture with a $250,000 construction donation (anonymously at the time) from peace philanthropist Joan Kroc. And that’s when Mr. Conrad decided to gift the sculpture as a public art donation to our art friendly city.
In 2011, Santa Monica City staff became concerned that the sculpture might not be structurally safe. And that there might not be enough funds to make sure it could be fully restored. So, in early 2012 the Santa Monica Arts Commission recommended that the City support the deaccession of ‘Chain Reaction’ from its public art collection. Michael Myers, the chair of the Arts Commission made an amendment that would give the community some time to possibly raise funds to save the sculpture and have it refurbished. The fundraising amendment and deaccession motion were passed and the City Council voted to support the Art Commission’s recommendations. Structural testing was proposed and initiated by the City. Many varied cost estimates were provided. Community fundraising began.
Then, on July 9, 2012 the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission unanimously voted to officially declare ‘Chain Reaction’ a city landmark.
The City Council later gave the community more fundraising time. And people came forward to step up the ’Save Chain Reaction’ fundraising efforts. With the help and determination of a dedicated “Chain Gang” team, more than $100,000 was raised.
Rod Gould, the former Santa Monica City Manager appreciated the community efforts and recommended to the City Council that they accept the funds and add whatever the difference would be to fully restore this now-landmarked sculpture.
And our new City Manager Rick Cole has been very supportive, as has our entire City Council.
The recent ‘Chain Reaction Peace Sculpture Public Rededication Ceremony’ was a meaningful and unifying event. The community, the Mayor, former Mayors, City staff, Landmarks Commissioners and the Conrad family were all present. The restored creative sculpture was highlighted. The protective fences that had been surrounding it for many years have been removed. A beautiful and sustainable landscaped ‘peace garden’ now encircles it. Solar powered uplighting highlight the monumental sculpture after the sun has set. And, the ceremony was held on the evening before the late Paul Conrad’s birthday. Mr. Conrad was born June 27,1924 in Cedar Rapids, IA and passed away of natural causes on September 4, 2010 at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA with his family by his side.
Paul Conrad was truly an amazing artist and a wonderful peacemaker. His message inscription on ‘Chain Reaction’ is still timely and important: This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph.
But, to bring the ‘Chain Reaction’ issue full circle and to a most honorable conclusion, the Santa Monica Arts Commission and City Council should proudly support the return of the now-landmarked and former highlighted public art piece back into the City’s public art collection.