8 Month Deadline Set for Sculpture Fundraising

The City Council looks to a grassroots effort to raise $423,172 to conserve the corroded anti-nuke sculpture at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Nov. 15 is the deadline the City Council set Tuesday for the community to raise the nearly crafted by Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist, Paul Conrad.

Salty ocean breezes and sunshine have corroded the mushroom cloud sculpture, called Chain Reaction. City officials say there's not enough money in the coffers to afford to  pay for the restoration work, estimated to be $423,172.

If the community doesn't come up with the money by the mid-November deadline, the piece, which is located outside the will removed from the public art collection.

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to leading the fundraising effort.

Mayor Richard Bloom said Conrad's cartoons sparked his interest in politics.

Chain Reaction “reminds me of growing up and enjoying all of Conrad’s cartoons for most of my youth,”  Bloom told family members who attended the meeting.

The recommendation from Santa Monica's cultural affairs manager, Jessica Cusick, to the City Council to remove the piece was difficult, she said, because the sculpture—described as a "statement of peace"—is beloved by so many people.

But the "investment is really out of sync with the quality of work," Cusick said. "It was never properly designed to be displayed outdoors in such a difficult setting." 

Conrad was renowned for his provocative political cartoons, but he also created a number of sculptures, mostly small-scale bronze busts that resembled his caricatures. Some critics have said Chain Reaction is more symbolic as a political statement than as a work of art.

Council members said they were thrilled to see Conrad's adult children at Tuesday's meeting.

"I followed them my whole life. For him to go up against the leading political figure in his hometown so relentlessly and aggressively," Shriver said of Conrad's cartoons that poked fun of Richard Nixon. He was "brave, immensely talented."

If the private funding isn’t secured, the work would be offered first to Conrad’s family and heirs and/or to any arts institution of their choosing.


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