A team of structural engineers and art conservators is moving forward in assessing the structural integrity of the late cartoonist Paul Conrad’s iconic Chain Reaction sculpture in front of the Santa Monica Civic Center.

The 26-foot-tall sculpture of a nuclear mushroom cloud has been exposed to wear and tear as well as public tampering since it was dedicated in 1991. The public art piece is made of copper tubing over a fiberglass core with an internal frame of stainless steel and rests on a concrete base.

City officials have begun to examine Conrad’s work to determine how best to preserve the iconic art piece for future generations.

The examination by structural engineers will consist of a visual inspection of the internal structure to detect any corrosion or other problems, along with lab testing of fiberglass and concrete samples, as well as the chain segments that clad the sculpture and their fasteners.

Prior to the examination and testing, conservators will carefully document and catalog the segments of chains in the selected sample areas. They then will carefully cut out the area designated as the entry point for the internal inspection.

Since city building officer Ron Takiguchi identified a potential public safety hazard with the sculpture, city staff have worked diligently with a highly skilled team of professionals to devise and implement a plan to preserve the integrity of the artwork, city officials said.

The first step in that process was an evaluation by both a structural engineer and a highly regarded conservator, followed by extensive research into the fabrication of the work.

City officials noted that once the assessment process is completed the city will be able to develop a plan for the future of the work.

Chain Reaction was a gift to the city and was approved by the City Council in 1991 after extensive public process and debate. The work was funded by a private donation to the Santa Monica Arts Foundation.

Share