Jerry Rubin

OLYMPIC HIGH – Local activist Jerry Rubin fought for the trees (the ficus along Second and Fourth streets) and then for public art (“Chain Reaction”). Now he’s tackling both.

Rubin wants to preserve the “Muir Woods” mural on the outside of the Olympic High School. It was painted in 1978 by then-local Jane Golden, who has since moved to Philadelphia (a city renowned for its murals) where she is the executive director of the Mural Arts Program.

The redwoods still reach up along the walls of the school but paint is peeling like bark on a tree. School officials say it’s time for a change and are proposing a new painting.

Rubin acknowledged that the mural needs some work but recently announced that he would launch a grassroots campaign to save it.

“The mural should not be taken away from our community,” he said. “It is so much part of our pro-art, pro-environment, and pro-education Santa Monica city. It is part of our history and our future.”

The mural is also a non sequitur; back when it was painted the building housed John Muir Elementary School, now located on Sixth Street.

“We’re now Olympic High School and we’ve been Olympic High School for close to 20 years,” said the school’s principal Janie Gates. “We now really want a mural that reflects our students and our school or our community. We’re not in Northern California where the Muir forest is. We’re down in a beach community so we’re working a local effort using local artists. At the time Jane Golden was local but for the last 35 years she’s been in Philadelphia.”

Olympic is an award-winning continuing education school for students who’ve struggled to get a degree from the district’s traditional high schools.

They’ve been thinking about the mural for the past eight to 10 years and Gates said they reached out to Golden. At the time Golden, who was sympathetic to the dilemma, said she’d have to take time off of work to fly out to Santa Monica for the touch-up. Gates said it would have cost the school around $37,000.

“Now we’re working on a local effort with local artists,” she said. “This is now Olympic High School, we’re no longer Muir Elementary and were working on a local image. We did have one image we thought we were going to go with but were still working on it and may work on coming up with a new image.”

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District documents from April show that Olympic does have $62,000 set aside from the Measure BB budget for the mural. This money, according to the document, could be used to hire local artists.

They could spend $10,000 to simply have the wall repainted or they could have students paint a new mural, according to the documents.

Rubin, who said his campaign is “not adversarial,” wonders if Olympic students could add a mural locally without eliminating the “Muir Woods” mural.

Earlier this year, Rubin successfully lobbied to save “Chain Reaction,” a public sculpture on the Civic Center lawn created by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Paul Conrad. City officials said the sculpture, which is fashioned out of chains, could pose a threat to public safety. The cost to make it safe was too much, city officials said. Rubin raised more than $100,000 and City Council voted to cover the remaining costs.

This is not Golden’s first Santa Monica mural in danger of disappearing. In 2012, her first mural “Ocean Park Pier” was so covered in graffiti that the owners of the property decided to repaint.

Golden told the Daily Press at the time that it was “heartbreaking” but said she was “being realistic” when she sent the owners written permission to repaint.

A psychedelic beach mural now covers the wall where “Ocean Park Pier” was painted: blue waves lapping over the past. Just a few blocks away, where the actual ’20s-era Ocean Park Pier once stood, the waves do the same.

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