Image courtesy of Kickstarter.

Just a half-mile away from the bulging biceps of Venice’s Muscle Beach is a showcase of intellectual strength. A mural dubbed “Luminaries of Pantheism” adorns a building’s entire wall and features a whos-who of great minds: Einstein, Nietzsche, Tesla, Du Bois and more.

The local non-profit behind the mural thinks these names’ forefather deserves something a bit more permanent than a mural: a statue, one which they hope to get primarily funded via Kickstarter.

Venice’s Paradise Program wants to bring a statue of Giordano Bruno to beachgoers, planting a statue of the 16th-century thinker along the Venice Beach Boardwalk, a move intended to bring more awareness to a man the Paradise Program says is typically lost in history.

“He’s kind of a hero of ours,” Charles Beebe, Paradise Program director said.

According to their website, the non-profit is a space that celebrates philosophy, science, and the arts, rejecting religious dogma.

Beebe took some time to tell the Daily Press what the Paradise Project does, why Giordano Bruno should have a statue in Venice and more.

So, Paradise Program — what do you do?

We’re a nonprofit that wanted to be a counterpoint to a lot of the religious and evangelical movements out there that are trying to influence culture and be a counterpoint to that and look at science against dogma. If you’re familiar with our mural, all of the people on that mural are all deep thinkers, philosophers, poets, scientists, but they all had this spiritual way of looking at nature without being religious — luminaries of pantheism.

We promote pantheism because it’s a science-based way of being in full awe of life. It’s a philosophy that’s about being present and appreciating what we have. We’re named The Paradise Project because we want people to know paradise can be here and now instead of an imagined utopia.

Why do you consider this statue necessary and what can residents get from this?

It’s meant to be an inspiration for people to take a stand against dogma. It’s meant to let people know that all the way back to the 1600s people stood up for what they believed in.

In our opinion, Bruno is one of the original free thinkers. His story is one we think needs to be told more. He’s a courageous, not well-known individual. It would be good to share that story and raise his profile with that statue.

What inspired this whole process? Was it the Neil Degrasse Tyson piece mentioned in your Kickstarter or…?

He’s the one person that’s not on our mural and we wanted to have a more notable spot for him.

He’s considered one of the first to look at the world in a pantheistic way. He’s the very first person to suggest that the stars were suns and had earth around them. And that came 30 years after Copernicus first said that the sun was center of the universe. This was the 16th century.

The church was kind of ruling everything and it was all based on we had to be the center of everything. That made their religion make sense. He was a huge heretic and shunned by the church and they caught up to him. He refused to recant like Galileo 30 yrs later. Burned him at the stake.

There’s already a statue of him in Rome, a gathering place for atheists, pantheists and free-thinkers that gather at his statue every year. At the anniversary of his death and we want to bring the same monument to Venice, a free-thinking place.

I see you ’ve laid the groundwork for the statue as far as costs, donating $60k of your own money. Any problems from the state, city or other agencies though?

It’s actually a dual jurisdiction, the California Coastal Commission and LA City. We have two different plans depending on whether or not we got both approvals, but we have backup plans that are within the current city requirements.

One way or the other, our statue can find a home if the money is raised. If not on the beach walk, it’d be on the same property as our headquarters.

If funds don’t come to what you expect, any thoughts on cost shaving? You mention in the Kickstarter that you’d like to have the statue revealed at Burning Man. Thoughts on excising that, potentially?

There’s a number of things we’re working on.

There’s a grant that’s available from Burning Man and that’s another thing we’re pursuing. It’s all really about the ability to get the word out. If we get the critical mass going on Kickstarter, we easily could meet this goal.

We were doing a project in the bay with Tesla, a very similar project, and got a lot of advice from them it really comes down to getting enough eyes on the process. We have great rewards, it has a lot of footwork in place, just a matter of raising people’s awareness.

Do you think the average Venice-goer would care about this guy?

I think people would be interested in something like this. The proof is already in Rome. That statue was built in 1889. It takes a while for people to learn about something, but that’s what we do is educate people on who the heroes of free-thinking have been in mankind and why they did what they did.

Venice is one of the most free-thinking places on the planet and I think it will resonate with people here. Our mural gets crowds every single day.

I think people are going to respond, and Burning Man will as well. Bruno is the OG Burning Man. (laughs)

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