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Santa Monica considers saving anti-war sculpture

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POSTED February 25, 2014 11:22 p.m.

SANTA MONICA (AP) — The two-year chain reaction of controversy that a gigantic sculpture of a nuclear mushroom cloud has set off across Santa Monica’s otherwise friendly shores may finally be ending.

The City Council was scheduled to vote Tuesday night on whether to move ahead with plans to accept more than $100,000 in donations and restore the aging, three-story work called “Chain Reaction.”

Two years ago, fate looked grim for the hulking pop-art structure constructed of chain links big enough to secure a ship’s anchor.

City officials said some of the links were rusting and they worried that children who liked to climb all over the sculpture in front of the Civic Center would be hurt if it fell down. The city’s Arts Commission voted to get rid of it.

Then a coalition of supporters, led by the beachfront city’s longtime, colorful peace activist, Jerry Rubin, sprang into action.

“It’s represents just everything that I’m an activist about,” Rubin said before Tuesday’s vote.

Supporters got nine former mayors to support their efforts, including one who had called the work ugly and voted against taking it in 1991.

Most importantly, said City Manager Rod Gould, supporters raised more than $100,000, showing that the community really did want to keep the thing.

The city’s staff is now recommending the council accept the money and cover the rest of the repair costs, although it’s still uncertain just how much that will be.

The work, by the late Los Angeles Times political cartoonist Paul Conrad, has always been controversial.

When the city took a straw poll on whether to accept the sculpture in 1991, the vote was 730-392 against. Officials ignored the results amid allegations that Conrad critics had stuffed the ballot box.

Although regarded as a liberal, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist skewered politicians across the political spectrum and had his share of critics on all sides.

 

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