15 Sep 2014
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The Cost of Saving Santa Monica's Anti-Nuke Sculpture?

City commissioners could decide Thursday to put aside $85,000 for the sculpture. The city has already spent $61,000 on testing.

The Cost of Saving Santa Monica's Anti-Nuke Sculpture?

The artist's son and city staffers don't agree on how much it will cost to repair an anti-nuke sculpture at Santa Monica's Civic Center.

The latest estimates from City Hall put the price tag as high as $550,000, while Dave Conrad, son of Pulitzer prize winning political cartoonist Paul Conrad, says it can be done for much less, between $80,000 and $95,000.

City staffers are recommending, however, that the Arts Commission earmark on Thursday night up to $85,000, or about half, of the city's Cultural Trust Fund to rebuild the sculpture. The money would only be released, however, if and when the community could make a dollar for dollar match.

The debate about whether to keep the mushroom cloud sculpture, named Chain Reaction, in the city's public art collection erupted after a preliminary report released early last year found the piece had corroded and could topple in an earthquake or sever windstorm. City officials have argued they can't justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to preserve the work.

Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick explains in a report to the city's Arts Commission:

To put the potential cost of these repairs in perspective, City Council allocated $100,000 in one-time funds in 2008 to assist with major conservation needs for the City’s collection. The funds were used to repair three works: Big Wave, by Tony de Lap, which is also 20 years old; the installation by Michael Davis in the Public Safety Facility; and the work by Mauro Staccioli located at the intersection of Pico Blvd and Ocean Ave.

Staff did an analysis of the average amount spent on the care and maintenance of the City’s public art collection over the last four and half years, and the combined average, including the special one-time funds was approximately $47,000 a year.

Cusick said her cost estimations are from Peter Carlson, who worked with Paul Conrad to fabricate the original work. The higher amount includes the cost to rebuild (between $420,000 and $475,000), while the cost of repairing would be a bit lesst, between $270,000 and $300,000. Placing a landscape barrier around the sculpture to keep kids from climbing on it would cost an additional $80,000, she said.

Dave Conrad said the city is ignoring a September report from a structural engineer who concluded Chain Reaction is "not an imminent hazard nor should it be considered dangerous."

He said he has met with an arts conservationist who, based on photos and the September report, estimated the cost at between $80,000 and $95,000. "We are led to believe the structure is sound and the work could be done for less," he said.

Chain Reaction was installed in Santa Monica's Civic Center 21 years ago as a "statement of peace." The city has so far spent $61,000 on tests.

"In my opinion, the artist's assertions that the work can be done for a lot less simply do not take into account the reality of what the city requires," Cusick told Patch. "To be built and declared safe, it has to be built according to the requirement of the [city] building inspector," which also means meeting standards set by the Secretary of State and the city's Landmarks Commission.

See also: Sculpture Gets Unanimous Landmark Vote

With help from some Santa Monica residents, such as Jerry Rubin, and the city, Conrad said he has so far raised about $9,000.

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