Chain Reaction is safe and needs relatively minor repairs, according to a report being presented to the Landmarks Commission on Aug.10.

The anti-nuclear weapons statue has been the subject of controversy in recent years and the long awaited results of recent testing will be publicly presented at the meeting alongside a plan for making the repairs that are necessary.

Chain Reaction, designed by American editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad, was installed on Main Street in 1991 and designated a landmark July 9, 2012 by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission.

In 2012, city officials said that the aging sculpture posed a threat to public safety. Costs to repair the sculpture, they said at the time, could be $400,000. City Council asked the public to raise funds to save the sculpture and supporters, with the self-designated nickname of the Chain Gang, collected more than $100,000. Council voted to accept that cash and cover the difference.

Chain Reaction has a structural steel interior frame, a fiberglass shell and copper chains on the exterior of the artwork that are in various conditions. A conservator and a structural engineer examined the sculpture and their report is now before officials.

According to the staff report, the testing of the sculpture’s structural integrity focused on the basic structure including its foundation and anchorage, main support pole, interior framing and the connections between elements. A material test of the fiberglass material and structural welds was also performed.

“The result of the testing was very positive,” said the staff report. “No deterioration of the steel structure and stainless steel connections was observed. The general condition was found to be acceptable and no further testing is recommended. The tensile strength of the fiberglass varied and a new coating of paint, particularly in the exposed areas, on the exterior of the fiberglass, is recommended for the shorter term protection of the sculpture. Finally, the attachment and the connection of copper “chain links” was found to utilize steel screws that cause corrosion, which could compromise the chains and cause them to loosen and eventually fall. This could be corrected through the replacement of the existing steel with copper.”

Because Chain Reaction is a designated landmark, the Landmark Commission has to give permission for any changes to be made to the structure. The consultants proposed a three step plan to make repairs that includes developing protocol for temporary care/storage of any removed pieces, developing methods for cleaning/painting and establishing procedures for removing chain links at the top of the sculpture and applying UV protective paint.

Early fears that the statue would have to be cut in half in order to facilitate testing and repair now seem unfounded. If approved by the Commission, repairs would have to begin within a year.

Photo credit: Nicholas Salazar

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