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Effort to Save Santa Monica's “Chain Reaction” Moving Ahead Slowly

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Effort to Save Santa Monica's “Chain Reaction” Moving Ahead Slowly

By Jason Islas

Staff Writer

June 18, 2013 -- With a February deadline to raise $250,000 to save Santa Monica's “Chain Reaction” sculpture, activists will soon be turning to foundations to save the iconic anti-nuclear art work at the Civic Center.

Counting the $1,500 raised at an April fund raising event at Rusty's Surf Ranch, activists have managed to raise $13,000 toward repairing the 26-foot-tall facsimile of a mushroom cloud designed by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Paul Conrad.

Estimates for repairs to the sculpture range from the $85,000 determined by a consultant for supporters, to $475,000 based on calculations by the City’s consultant.

“I'm still very optimistic,” said David Conrad, the artist's son, who is spearheading the fund raising effort. “”We've got a lot more people on board. We're trying to make a lot of noise.”

Conrad hopes to post a video about the 20-year-old sculpture on a crowd-funding website within a couple of weeks.

And on August 6, the 68th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War Two, Conrad hopes to hold another fund raising event for his father's anti-nuclear sculpture.

Abby Arnold, a local grant writer working with Conrad, also remains optimistic.

“I think $13,000 is very respectable,” she said. Starting July 1, Arnold said she will begin approaching major foundations to seek more funding to save the sculpture.

“We need to have as much of a plan in place as possible,” she said. Arnold added that she was waiting until the City managed to raise enough money for Glow, its one-night art festival on the beach.

“The City had a very serious concern about competing” for funds for the festival, said Arnold.

Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick said that the City has raised most of the $500,000 it needs to put on Glow, scheduled for late September.

With Glow nearly fully funded, Arnold said she can go forward with soliciting funds to save Chain Reaction.

Though art conservationist Steve Colton estimated that the saving the sculpture should only cost between about $85,000 and $230,000, the City believes it would be much more.

“We don't have a plan for repairs,” said Cusick. “We have a very broad range of estimates but none of them are less than $250,000.”

Colton's estimate doesn't take “into account the reality of what needs to be done and the reality of City processes,” said Cusick, referring to the City's requirements for hiring workers at a “living wage” and paying the cost of insurance.

The cost of the repairs has been a point of contention for some time.

“There's very little reasoning behind their numbers at this point,” Conrad said, referring to the City's official estimates.

In January 2013, the City Council voted to give supporters of the sculpture until the end of next January to raise the money to save it and committed $50,000 if activists can raise the rest of the money.

The fate of the sculpture has been up in the air for two years.

In June 2011, City building officer Ron Takiguchi worried that the sculpture could pose a public safety threat after he saw children climbing on the sculpture.

Further tests revealed problems with the sculpture's supporting frame, leading the City to fence off the structure until its future could be determined.

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