BERKELEY ST — After 11 contentious days, the colorful panels that completely encased a dilapidated house in a residential neighborhood have been removed, and both city officials and the builder can say they got what they wanted.
Fifteen volunteers worked for several hours Monday to remove each of the 138 panels. The panels were loaded up into a truck borrowed from Buerge Ford in Santa Monica and taken to an undisclosed location.
Adam Corlin, the builder and designer who purchased the house approximately three-and-a-half months ago, said that the monolithic art project, entitled “Oceans at Risk,” had achieved its goal — to bring awareness to the challenges that face the world’s oceans.
He erected the project with the help of two renowned graffiti artists — RISK and RETNA, both of whom have work on display at the Pasadena Museum of California Art — on Sept. 8 in the run up to the California Coastal Cleanup, a statewide event that local environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay runs in Los Angeles County.
“I think we accomplished what we wanted to do,” Corlin said, noting that Karin Hall, the executive director of Heal The Bay, reported that this had been one of the most successful years in terms of getting volunteers out to the cleanup, which was held Saturday.
The California Coastal Cleanup attracted over 1,000 volunteers who collected more than 1,200 pounds of trash at the five sites in Santa Monica alone, according to Heal the Bay Communications Director Matthew King.
Although unwilling to speak for Corlin, King felt that the project had successfully stimulated debate about the plight of the oceans.
“Sometimes graffiti art can reach people in a way that a scientific paper or a press release never could,” King said.
The work — which consisted of panels painted in red, orange, green, blue and a purple-black to depict the sky, sea and pollution — “stimulated debate” not just over the ocean, but over the process by which it came to be on the 800 block of Berkeley Street.
From the moment it was unveiled, Corlin ran into problems with Santa Monica’s Building and Safety Division, which immediately ordered the panels to be taken off of the home, at first for safety reasons.
The 138 panels had been installed on scaffolding that completely surrounded the house using between 1,200 and 1,500 wires, which constituted a temporary structure in the eyes of inspectors.
Problematically for Corlin, he’d gotten no permits for the display prior to putting it up.
To do so would have required him to out his project, which he’d carefully completed under shrouds of tarp to surprise the neighborhood.
Corlin was threatened with fines and a court appearance, where he might have been forced to pay City Hall to remove the panels using its own hired help.
A groundswell of community support grew around the project, to the point that lawyers, such as Christine Arden of the Santa Monica law firm Pfeiffer Thigpen FitzGibbon & Ziontz, rallied to help save the work.
Now that it’s down, Corlin is looking for a place to install the work on a permanent basis. A few museums have already sent out feelers.
“We’re talking to several places to reinstall it,” he said. “We’ll take a break today, regroup and then start talking to other owners.”
City Hall is just waiting on the scaffolding to come down before it closes the book on the safety complaint, said Ron Takiguchi of code enforcement.
After that, it’s a matter of consulting with the City Attorney’s Office to decide if any fines will be assessed.
Although “Oceans at Risk” may be over, and the ramshackle house on its way to a new life as a Spanish-style hacienda rather than a public art piece, the sun has not yet set on Corlin and RISK’s activism.
The duo partnered for the At Risk Foundation, which will help bring awareness to issues including ocean health and the demise of public art.
Corlin hopes to create a curriculum for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District that brings together the Oceans at Risk artists and Heal the Bay educators to teach students about what’s going on with the oceans.
RISK chose to focus on public art at this point, particularly overturning the moratorium on murals in Los Angeles.
“This is just the beginning of what we want to do,” Corlin said.