CITY HALL — Supporters of Paul Conrad’s “Chain Reaction” sculpture have until Nov. 15 to raise money to save the piece before city officials remove it from its public art collection.

The City Council refused to allocate money to test and rehabilitate the 26-foot-tall sculpture designed by Conrad, a three-time Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist, instead backing the Feb. 1 recommendation of the Arts Commission to wait six months for the money to come through.

The Arts Commission felt that the amount of outcry over the proposal to retire the work warranted some kind of reprieve, said Chair Michael Myers.

“One of the purposes of art is to illicit a response,” he said. “The amount of response was staggering. This piece is important to them, and they wanted to raise money to save it.”

It’s no small task — city officials estimate that it could cost up to $427,000 to fix and conserve the piece, given a lack of certainty as to how deep the damage to the sculpture goes after years of exposure to the wind, rain and sea salt.

The piece was never built to withstand those conditions, something City Hall discovered long after it was installed in 1991, said Jessica Cusick, cultural affairs manager.

“The investment is really out of sync with a piece that, in our opinion, was never properly designed to be displayed outdoors in a difficult setting,” she told council members.

Conrad’s son Dave and wife Kay told council members that the piece was important both to Conrad and to the anti-nuclear movement.

“He was grateful that you put ‘Chain Reaction’ in the most public of places,” Kay Conrad said. “The sculpture represents one of the greatest things he did as an artist and more importantly as an activist.”

A group has rallied around the piece, including some of the people who helped build it in the first place. There is some hope that volunteer work on their parts will help keep costs down.

Activist Jerry Rubin hailed the decision in a triumphant e-mail sent out to supporters, complete with a list of events from now until September including a free screening of the PBS documentary “Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire” at Vidiots on April 1 at 3 p.m.

“Chain Reaction” is also expected to come before the Landmarks Commission for discussion in April, at which point commissioners could submit an application to explore its potential landmark status.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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