By Joe Piasecki
Activists working to preserve a landmark 26-foot mushroom-cloud peace sculpture adjacent to the Santa Monica Civic Center are kicking their efforts into high gear on Wednesday with a fundraising party at Rusty’s Surf Ranch.
Santa Monica officials have contemplated decommissioning “Chain Reaction,” erected by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad in 1991, citing a need for repairs that could cost up to $400,000 — more than they are so far willing to fund.
Instead, City Council members offered to match activists’ fundraising up to $50,000 but set a soft deadline of Feb. 1 for deciding the statue’s fate.
Proponents of the statue, who say necessary repairs could cost as little as $80,000, have so far raised nearly $40,000, said Dave Conrad, the artist’s son.
“Chain Reaction” depicts a series of interlocking chains that rise to represent the explosive aftermath of an atomic bomb blast. A plaque at its base reads: “This is a statement of peace. May it never be an epitaph.”
Jerry Peace Activist Rubin, a longtime fixture of Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, has joined Conrad in leading the charge to keep “Chain Reaction” standing as public art.
“It’s not just a 26-foot bowl of fruit of fruit,” said Rubin. “Paul Conrad’s masterpiece is a chain reaction of thought, dialogue and debate. It’s a place for people to come together. It’s everything public art should be. You don’t have to like it to support it.”
Despite the council’s reservations about “Chain Reaction,” a city commission named the statue a city landmark earlier this year.
“It’s a permanent fixture in the Civic Center, a statement of peace by an important artist that reflects some of the political and cultural positions of the city of Santa Monica,” said Roger Genser, an art dealer who sits on the city’s Landmarks Commission
Rubin, who marks his 70th birthday at Wednesday’s gathering, has attracted several high-profile supporters to the “Chain Reaction” cause.
Actress Alexandra Paul is keynote speaker of the event, which will also include performances by The Mamas & the Papas’ Michelle Phillips and actress/musician Q’orianka Kilcher — a noted peace and social justice activist who got her start in acting and activism near Rubin’s peace table on the Promenade.
“‘Chain Reaction’ is important because of the statement it makes,” Kilcher said.
The “Save Chain Reaction” fundraiser takes place from 6 to 11 p.m. Wednesday at Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica Pier. A donation of $10 to $20 is requested. For more information, visit savechainreaction.com.