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It is always good to write the City Council, as I have, to thank the mayor and council members for being open and to boost their confidence in voting to support the restoration and preservation of “Chain Reaction,” Paul Conrad’s public art gift that affirms who we are as a city and community, taking seriously what it means to create peace in the world. What more could we demonstrate as an internationally recognized, sustainable and humane city? What more could we do to inspire our children and youth?

Born in Santa Monica and home here for 33 years, I have been proud of my city’s imagination and boldness in setting forth practices, programs, policies, and laws that reflect the good sense that our progress stems from our compassion, intellectuality and ecological consciousness. Through the last two years as we have engaged in figuring out how to preserve “Chain Reaction,” I have also been reminded of how significant our public or civic art is to awaken new ways of seeing ourselves in the world, potentially seeding and ripening our purpose and promise.

Our public art budget is unduly modest and definitely needs increasing by tax-dollar appropriations and contributions. An active collaboration of city and community, with the trust that gifts are respected, can be quite fruitful, as the community’s raising $105,000 for preserving “Chain Reaction” proves. What a good start that is as a measurable indicator of “charitable giving in the arts,” now formalized in our Sustainable City Plan.

Santa Monica, like any influential city, can elevate the meaning of citizenship, indeed, democratic ideals of dignity, freedom, equality and justice through the power of human creativity in public art. “Chain Reaction” calls upon us to confront the existential threat of nuclear weapons with commensurate creative force of truth and nonviolence, the essence of peace.

In the 1980s with the Bilateral Nuclear Weapons Freeze, Santa Monica helped lead in the pursuit of peace. We have renewed that stance many times, including in 2010 when we joined the Mayors for Peace, the international initiative to abolish nuclear weapons.

“Chain Reaction” helps us teach the young and others about our history and the ultimate holocaust that nuclear weapons can cause, but also about the stupendous potential of communal will power vested in our sovereignty as “We, the People” that can be exerted to abolish those weapons through local, national and international leadership.

What a statement that makes to all who reside, work or visit here, indeed, from anywhere in the world, about how we truly value Life. To explore such potential, the landscaping around “Chain Reaction” need not be a “barrier,” as the staff report reads, but a peace garden to bridge relationships and understanding through contemplation, questions and conversation.

For, thank goodness, restoring “Chain Reaction” can actually help restore us.


Cris Gutierrez

Santa Monica

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