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'Chain Reaction' Sculpture Back in Santa Monica’s Public Art Collection


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 21, 2018 -- After weathering some rough years, “Chain Reaction” -- the unique 26-foot tall sculpture in Santa Monica’s Civic Center depicting a mushrooming nuclear cloud -- has been welcomed back to the City’s public art collection.

On Monday, the Santa Monica Arts Commission voted unanimously to restore the famous anti-war sculpture, designed by L.A. Times editorial/political cartoonist Paul Conrad, to the City’s extensive list of official public art works.
Chain Reaction
"Chain Reaction" (Courtesy City of Santa Monica)

“It has now been restored, rededicated and re-accessed,” said Jerry Rubin, who was a leader in the local movement to save the artwork.

One of the City's most visible and iconic public art works, the sculpture (built by Peter M. Carlson) was installed in 1991 on the lawn of the Santa Monica Civic Center, on the east side of Main Street between the Santa Monica Courthouse and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

The move comes more than six years after the City Council voted in January 2012 to “de-access” the sculpture from the City’s public art collection.

It depicts an upwardly expanding mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion, created by a tangle of chains and a hollow copper tubing over fiberglass.

Its inscription reads, "This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph."

As time passed, the City became worried the 5.5-ton structure was aging and would be too costly to repair and maintain.

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In 2012, the City Council voted to remove the artwork, and send it back either to the Conrad family or an art institution of the family’s choosing ("Santa Monica Officials Recommend Taking Down Iconic 'Chain Reaction' Sculpture," January 31, 2012).

It won a reprieve in March of that year, when the council voted to delay removing the sculpture to give Chain Reaction supporters time to raise funds for its restoration ("Santa Monica's Chain Reaction Gets Reprieve," March 22, 2012).

A “Save Chain Reaction” drive led by Conrad’s son, David Conrad, raised about $100,000 and the council subsequently voted to pay for the rest of the repair work ("Fund to Save Santa Monica’s 'Chain Reaction' Sculpture Tops $100,000," February 12, 2014).

In 2015, the City Council on approved up to $275,000 in city funds to restore the sculpture and build a landscape barrier around it to protect the structure and the public during the work ("Santa Monica Council Set To Approve Final $275,000 To Restore 'Chain Reaction," November 9, 2015.

The City’s Landmark’s Commission voted to designate Chain Reaction as a City landmark in 2012 ("Chain Reaction” Becomes Santa Monica’s Newest Landmark," July 11, 2012).


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