Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica's “Chain Reaction” to Go Before Landmarks Commission Monday
By Jason Islas
Jannuary 14, 2013 – Having raised only $8,700 to save “Chain Reaction,” supporters of Santa Monica's iconic sculpture have hired a grant writer before heading back to the Landmarks Commission Monday and the City Council later this month.
The two bodies will discuss the future of the 26-foot-tall sculpture by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad, which City officials have recommended should be removed because it is structurally unsound and repair costs are prohibitive.
In July, the Landmarks Commission designated the chain link depiction of a mushroom cloud that has been a staple of the Civic Center since 1991, a landmark.
“I'm going to try to bring the Landmarks Commission up to speed as to where things stand,” said attorney Ken Kutcher, who represents Dave Conrad, son of the sculpture's creator. “We don't see any rush (to remove the sculpture) given it's not an immediate public safety risk.”
That conclusion was echoed by a study conducted in August by Melvyn Green and Associates, a structural engineering and historic preservation firm based in Torrance.
“In reviewing the basic calculations, test data, and reports, I am of the opinion that the sculpture is not an imminent hazard nor should it be considered dangerous,” the report reads.
Though all parties agree that repairs to the sculpture need to be made, the cost and extent of those repairs have been in question.
The City initially estimated that the sculpture would need anywhere from $227,372 to $423,172 worth of repairs, an amount which staff considered prohibitive.
A report conducted in November by art conservationist Steve Colton puts the cost between $80,000 and $295,000.
Colton came up with a “much more realistic quote,” said Dave Conrad.
“The Conrad family has graciously agreed to raise funds,” said Kutcher, who maintains that it is the City's responsibility to care for the sculpture.
Even though the Conrad family has been actively seeking funds to help pay for repairs, the fundraising process has been slow-going.
Of the $8,700 the Conrad family has managed to raise, more than half has come from an auction in November when a sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Paul Conrad sold for $4,500.
Recently, the Conrad family sought the services of local grant writer Abby Arnold to help solicit grants from foundations.
“We're covering our bases,” Conrad said. “We're seeing what responsibility the City will take. We are prepared to go out to foundations to see what we can get there.”
The sculpture's landmark status is likely to help convince foundations to donate money for its preservation, he said.
“We thought that it was important that, if we do have to go to foundations, they knew the sculpture was permanent,” he said.
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