CIVIC CENTER — A controversial statue with an anti-nuclear message got a thumbs down from the Arts Commission Thursday night, just days before a crucial City Council vote that will determine the fate of the work.
The Arts Commission voted against a recommendation by city officials to spend taxpayer money to preserve “Chain Reaction,” a 26-foot statue in the shape of a mushroom cloud created by three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Paul Conrad.
Commissioners balked at spending limited arts funding on the sculpture, which is in need of potentially expensive repairs, said Jessica Cusick, cultural affairs manager with City Hall.
“They had deaccessioned the work, and this remained, in their opinion, a very large sum of money for this work,” she said.
The monumental sculpture could cost as much as $555,000 to completely rebuild, although supporters of the work believe it only needs $85,000 to $90,000 worth of repairs and have been trying to raise money to pay for it.
City officials recommended an extended timeline to allow supporters to raise matching funds up to $85,000, which would more than pay for the lower estimate created by conservator Steve Colton.
That’s similar in spirit to the deal worked out with the Santa Monica Conservancy to save the Shotgun House, a late 1800s structure the nonprofit is rehabilitating off Ocean Park Boulevard and Main Street, Cusick said.
Supporters of “Chain Reaction” have raised roughly $10,000 at present, according to the city staff report.
It was difficult to raise money without a definite cost of repairs, which didn’t come until September 2012, roughly a month before a deadline imposed by the City Council in March, supporters said.
Professional grant writer Abby Arnold is now on board to help the team.
Jerry Rubin, the activist heading up efforts to save the work, was disappointed in the Thursday vote. It goes before the City Council at its Jan. 22 meeting.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Rubin said. “We certainly hope council members understand this is an important artwork and landmark, an important statement of peace and should be supported.”