Tomorrow. For the Muir Woods mural, the iconic wrap-around painting of a redwood forest at the busy intersection of Lincoln and Ocean Park. It was painted by now-famous muralist Jane Golden 41 years ago and has become part of our history and our landscape, both physical and psychic. Many say the sight of the forest mural there in the midst of heavy city traffic takes them to another mindset, connected to nature.
Thursday evening our school board will decide its fate. Restore it or paint it over, for… something “new.” It’s now or never, folks.
Y’all definitely still need to write to your school board members now at
to ask them to reject any proposals to paint over this environmentally-themed mural. Having lots of supporters show up at the meeting would be great too. SMMUSD offices at 1651 16th Street on Thursday, Oct. 17, 6 p.m.
Be nice when you write to the Board. They didn’t propose painting it over. But they are the ones who have the final say over its restoration or destruction.
It can be done. The Save the Muir Woods Mural Group has been working on this and planning it for 5-½ years. And we have a number of real community benefits that can be linked in to the restoration. It can be a very uplifting art and environment event for Santa Monica, great for our image.
Or, it can be the worst lesson possible for our students. “The mural’s been there too long, time for a change,” some say. Well, the Mona Lisa has been taking up that canvas space for centuries — time for a change, right? (And isn’t this the absolute worst time in history to tear down a forest, even a symbolic painted one?)
“It’s linked to John Muir School” (it may have been a source of inspiration initially, but the word “Muir” does not appear anywhere, nor is there even any depiction of environmental hero John Muir, so most people think of it as simply a beautiful redwood forest) — “and the John Muir school moved up the street 20 years ago,” they say — a specious if not silly argument, since the current occupant, Olympic High School, has not been on Olympic Boulevard for decades either, and no one ever seemed too worried about that.
“The students deserve something on their wall representing them and their school,” they say, but really, aren’t there some things that deserve a wider community perspective than 14-18 year-old temporary residents there may yet possess? That was the original argument we heard for painting over the iconic forest mural in 2014 — “the students!” But even the youngest students at Olympic then are now in college or working. Do we change murals every time a new class comes in? You should have seen that first proposal in ‘14 for “a mural for the students” — it was a garishly bright depiction of the Pier, with a tiger crouching in the waves — !?
But stop reading, please (you can come back!), and
WRITE YOUR SCHOOL BOARD, NOW
with a respectful but firm request to restore the mural, telling them how much it means to you, your kids, to the community.
This is the first chance we’ve had to bring it before the school board, and now it’s not just an item to discuss, the proposal is there, to be voted on, to paint it over now and also paint a banner identifying it as the Michelle and Barack Obama Center for Inquiry and Exploration. Can’t let that happen, no matter the feel-good suggestions included that “community input” will later be sought before a final decision. When it’s gone, it’s gone, out of sight out of mind.
The name of the school should be prominently featured somewhere. But the proposal to paint that identifying banner on the repainted wall means you have ignored the artistic integrity of the mural and the raison d’être for the way it was executed in 1978. It only gives the feeling of a forest if it covers the two walls top to bottom. No signage to break the illusion, no homages to any human, not even LA’s John Muir. To propose an “homage” to the mural there is the same as announcing, we screwed this up but here’s a snapshot of what used to be.
There is not another mural space like this in Santa Monica, absolutely ideal for depicting a forest, with the majority of drivers, bikers, walkers etc at that very busy intersection getting an almost 3-D effect.
It’s late, it’s late 2019 and we all know our environment is in crisis. WWGD (What Would Greta Do)? What would the Obamas say, to have this done in their name?
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 email@example.com