The Santa Monica City Council is expected to decide the peace statue’s fate on Tuesday, so now’s the time to speak up about saving it
By Jerry Rubin
When my wife Marissa and I attended a special Santa Monica Arts Commission meeting two years ago on the topic of Paul Conrad’s Chain Reaction and spoke in support of the public art peace sculpture, we learned that the iconic 26-foot-tall monument in the shape of a mushroom cloud would likely be removed due to safety concerns and a lack of funds to repair it. We both decided immediately that we would do whatever we could to save it.
I contacted David Conrad, son of the late three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, and set up a meeting at a local coffee shop. Paul Conrad’s wife Kay, David and about a dozen others joined us at that first Save Chain Reaction meeting. We knew we had a daunting but honorable task ahead in gathering community support, but we also knew it was the right and necessary thing to do.
My wife and I then started an S.O.S. (Save Our Sculpture) petition and took it everywhere we could. Over those first few weeks we gathered more than 300 signatures from residents, artists, activists, community leaders and other notables, including actors Martin Sheen and Ed Asner. We also organized a public outreach event hosted by Vidiots, where we screened “Conrad: Drawing Fire,” the Tom Brokaw-narrated PBS Independent Lens documentary by Barbara Multer-Wellin and Jeffrey Abelson. The filmmakers, the Conrad family and a full room of people attended that first public support event on April 1, 2012.
Nearly two years later, we have the added help of many more talented, creative and dedicated people working passionately to ensure Chain Reaction is restored and remains at the Santa Monica Civic Center, where it has stood since 1991.
When city leaders told us last year that we’d need to raise a huge amount of money to do it, we buckled down. Our expanded team, which has been calling itself the Chain Gang, set up a website and Facebook page. Robert Berman started holding art auctions at his Bergamot Station gallery. People also started sending in tax-deductable donations through the Santa Monica Arts Foundation. The campaign started an online support petition that to date has more than 3,800 signatures and many positive online comments of support. The $4,000 raised for Chain Reaction through my 70th Birthday Peace Party in December would certainly not have happened without the support of Rusty’s Surf Ranch, which had hosted an earlier benefit concert organized by high school students.
All that hard work paid off: We’ve now raised more than $100,000 to assist the city in a timely restoration of the sculpture, which a city commission deemed an official Santa Monica landmark in July 2012.
Our diverse supporters list now includes eight former Santa Monica mayors, former and current state senators, former and current city commissioners, religious leaders, columnists, architects, neighborhood organizations, students, the Santa Monica Conservancy, Veterans for Peace and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. Artists Graham Nash, Ed Ruscha, Judy Baca and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, activists Tom Hayden, Ron Kovic, Daniel Ellsberg and Helen Caldicott, and Hollywood’s Norman Lear, Mike Farrell, Alexandra Paul and Tim Robbins are also on the list.
We are anticipating a positive vote when the fate of Chain Reaction comes before the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday night, but are asking supporters for one final push: Join us for a Save Chain Reaction support rally at 6 p.m. in front of Santa Monica City Hall, (1685 Main St.).
If you don’t want to be part of the rally or speak to the council, your presence at the meeting still counts as a show of support.
With everyone’s positive energy and dedication, we can—and will—save Chain Reaction and preserve its important educational and artistic messages about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need to work for world peace.
Contact Rubin or sign the online petition at SaveChainReaction.com or facebook.com/SaveChainReaction.