But it’s not too late, if you speak up, NOW! Take just a moment, now. Email your support to save and restore this iconic, environmental 1978 mural at Lincoln and Ocean Park — to the Santa Monica-Malibu United School District (SMMUSD) School Board at:

Ask them to unanimously vote to consider saving, not destroying, the mural. Or at least to move the agenda item to a Board meeting held in Santa Monica — where the mural is — not Malibu. VERY important.

For more than five years the Save The Muir Woods Mural group — local peace and environmental activists Jerry and Marissa Rubin, and me — worked respectfully and diligently with Olympic High School and SMMUSD, who had declared their intention to paint over it and replace it with a different mural. Never then, or now, for any good or compelling reasons.

We followed the rules, participated in a months-long mediation process, kept many of our elected representatives and SMMUSD officials aware of our ongoing efforts to demonstrate widespread support, and all the other reasons why it must be preserved and restored.

SAVE THE MURAL! — former Mayors Nat Trives, James Conn, Paul Rosenstein, Denny Zane, Michael Feinstein; SM City Council Member Sue Himmelrich; School Board members President Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Craig Foster, Oscar de la Torre, Ralph Mechur; former School Board member and current State Sen. Ben Allen, and his mother Elena, former chair of SM Arts Commission; SM Recreation and Parks Commission; SM Task Force on the Environment.

We waited patiently, for years, for the matter to come before the Board, so we could make our case.

So now it has. But wait — at tomorrow night’s Board meeting? — in Malibu?! Four days notice, and only because someone chanced upon the new agenda item:

“VI.C.1. Exterior Painting…

Recommended Motion: It is recommended that the Board of Education direct staff to paint the southeast walls of the Michelle and Barack Obama Center for Inquiry and Exploration the same exterior wall color as the rest of the school and add a painted sign identifying the facility’s name.”

Don’t consider preserve or paint over. Only one choice. This “recommendation” came from the SMMUSD staff, without any input at all from our group. No notice, even, to our Save The Muir Woods Mural group, representing so many concerned residents and groups worldwide, that it would finally, finally be considered and voted on by the Board. This is not a mural of buildings or people, it’s a redwood forest. Now, 2019, when we all know our environment is in crisis, you’re going to trash that? Nice message for the kids.

SAVE THE MURAL! — Michael Muir and Lynne Hanna Lincoln, Great Grandchildren of John Muir; Sierra Club: Executive Director Michael Brune, former national board member Marcia Hanscom, WLA Group and Chair David Haake, LA Chapter board member George Watland; founder and President of TreePeople Andy Lipkis; former Chair of SM Environmental Task Force Mark Gold (also a former President of) – Heal the Bay: former president and CEO Ruskin Hartley, President and CEO Alix Hobbs, board member Todd Flora; Ecology Center of Southern California Director Nancy Pearlman; President of NAACP SM Chapter Darrell Goode; minister of The Church in Ocean Park Rev. Janet McKeithen.

Does this sound like a raw deal to you? Unfair, even underhanded? To make it even more certain the residents don’t get to weigh in, it’s on the consent calendar, which means it’s voted on along with other items generally agreed upon, with no discussion allowed. I received an email from an honored community leader that said, “What is going on? Could their contempt for public opinion be more obvious?” After we played nice and fair and by the rules for five and a half years.

But who is “they”? Who’s to blame? Who knows? My guess is it’s just a handful of SMMUSD staff who have their own agenda for taking down that mural. And that agenda does not include history, art, or community support.

So even if you don’t love the mural, write the Board to ask for a fair shake. None of this is their fault. It’s not Supt. Drati, it’s not your hardworking SMMUSD teachers, principals and staffers. But — it’s not fair, and despite my frequent whining about how our local governemnt functions, I do believe that everyone else involved wants to do the right thing.

SAVE THE MURAL! — actor, comedian, author, musician, filmmaker, radio host Harry Shearer (Simpsons, Spinal Tap); film actress, activist, singer Qorianka Kilcher; Associate Director of Ruskin School of Acting Michael R. Myers; creator/curator of spoken word performances Library Girl Susan Hayden; poet and environmental activist Susan Suntree; activist and actress (Baywatch) Alexandra Paul; SMRR Steering Committee member Michael Tarbet; SMC Associated Students Director of Sustainability Andrea Gonzalez Cabrera; former director of Earth Day LA Jim Stewart; founder of Kids for Peace Gayle Gale; former SM Arts Commissioner Zina Josephs and many current and former Arts, Rec & Parks, Planning and other Commissioners, Santa Monica Daily Press “Laughing Matters” columnist Jack Neworth; SM artists Diane Michelle, Marissa Rubin, Russell Poon-Fear.

(see more endorsements and info at: Save The Muir Woods Mural)

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Although they may not even know this new learning center has their names on it, do you think the Obamas, with Barack having done so very much to protect the environment and set aside more wilderness, would be happy to know this environmental message mural, at one of our busiest intersections, will be taken down so their names can be “branded’ on the wall instead? Somebody tell them, NOW! Also, call Greta.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at

Join the Conversation


  1. I believe the artist of the Muir Mural, Jane Golden, is still alive. Why not commission her to either restore the mural, or create a new one? Better yet – have her do a new mural at the new John Muir campus and a new mural at the new Obama Center! As a former Muir student, I am attached to the murals in the city and sad to see them fall by the wayside, one by one. Jane Golden’s work is worth preserving.

  2. Viewing this majestic landscape, even in it’s state of neglect and disrepair is a welcome and preferable sight to plain walls or new signs. It’s also integral to the history of John Muir Elementary, which needs more attention from the district and school board than these walls, and Ocean Park’s character, not to mention Santa Monica’s. The school board should hear, acknowledge, and prioritize the community’s and John Muir families support and wishes to restore and preserve this mural.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.