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Santa Monica Landmarks Commission to Take Up Iconic Anti-War Sculpture  


By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

April 9, 2012 -- As organizers rally to save Santa Monica's iconic "Chain Reaction" sculpture, the City's Landmarks Commission on Monday will discuss what action, if any, it can take before the city removes the work due to safety concerns.

The commission -- which normally deals with private buildings -- will limit its discussion to what options it has when it comes to designating Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist Paul Conrad's anti-war monument a historic landmark.  

“One of the things we are looking forward to is hearing from the community,” said Commission Chair John Berley, adding that he expected the meeting to be a lively one.

In order for the commission to move forward with the process of designating the statue a landmark, it will first have to determine how important the statue – as well as its current location at the Civic Center – is to Santa Monica from a cultural perspective, Berley said.

“If there's a consensus,” said Berley, “a consultant will have to be hired to take a closer look.”

The consultant would look at other communities that have dealt with similar issues and compile a report listing the precedents.

However, even if the statue is eventually designated a landmark, Berley said, that wouldn't solve the primary problem: the need to repair the 26-foot tall, 22-year-old sculpture.

When City staff began to investigate the sculpture's safety last November, they found that many of the fasteners that attach the copper tubing chain to the fiberglass core were either missing, not fully imbedded or exhibited severe corrosion.

Staff estimates the repairs could cost anywhere from $227,372 to $423,172 and that there is no guarantee how long the repairs would last.

Last month, the City Council voted to allow the statue to remain in place until at least November 15 to allow organizers time to raise money for the repairs. The effort has gained support from many members of the community, including the artist's family.

“I am optimistic that donations, large and small, will help to save 'Chain Reaction,'” said local activist Jerry Rubin, who is spearheading the fundraising effort.

“My wife, Marissa, and I sent in a donation a few weeks ago,” Rubin said, inviting those who also want to see the sculpture saved to visit a website set up by The Conrad family.

The effort to save the sculpture should get a boost from the hour-long PBS documentary "Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire" by filmmakers Barbara Multer-Wellin and Jeffrey Abelson and narrated by Tom Brokaw.

The film looks at the career of the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner who died in 2010 and his satirical work for the Los Angeles Times lampooning presidents and policies across three decades.

"Chain Reaction" was narrowly approved by a 4-to-3 vote by the City Council in 1990 after a two-year process and after the Beverly Hills Fine Arts Commission turned it down.

"This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph," Conrad inscribed in the sculpture.

Berley said, “In the end, if the community is able to raise the money, the question of whether or not the statue is a landmark is moot.”

Donations should be sent to: City of Santa Monica, Cultural Affairs Division - Chain Reaction, PO Box 2200, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2200. Checks should be made payable to the Santa Monica Arts Foundation and must say "Chain Reaction" in the memo section.


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