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Commissioned by artist Jane Golden in 1978, the Muir Woods mural positioned at the corner of Lincoln and Ocean Park boulevards has captivated the eyes of passers-by for more than three decades.

Despite its popularity with some in the local community, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District recently suggested the mural be painted over after staff cited concerns of erosion, lead paint and other environmental hazards.

In October, after hours of discussion and input from residents, the district’s Board of Education came to a unanimous decision to leave the mural in place until local stakeholders had the opportunity to voice their opinions on how the district should best move forward with the beloved mural.

Thanks to his local ties to Philadelphia — Golden’s current place of residence — SMMUSD Board President Jon Keane said he spoke directly to the artist to gauge if she had any interest in leading a community-oriented process that could decide the fate of the mural.

“I played my Philly card with her and she called me right back,” Kean said in an interview Friday.

“She was very flattered that the people of this community have such an emotional attachment to her work. It made her feel very good, but at the same time, she understands that murals are not a permanent art form and that sometimes murals fade away and need to be updated, replaced, rejuvenated or renovated,” Kean said. “So, her advice to us was we need to identify why people connect so strongly with the original piece and to use that energy moving forward.”

SMMUSD believes the best way to identify why people feel so strongly about the piece is to have Golden host a series of meetings at the end of January, which will allow anybody with an opinion the opportunity to share it.

Kean said the meetings will occur over the course of three days with the first gathering being held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 on Santa Monica College’s campus. The next day, small groups comprised of students, activists and others stakeholders will meet with Golden and her team individually to ensure the group has nailed down the true feelings of the community.

On the final day of discussions — Feb. 1, 2020 — Golden and the district will gather at 721 Ocean Park Boulevard for a meeting that Kean said will likely last three hours.

“We truly want a collaborative effort with residents so everybody can voice what’s best in their eyes,” Kean said, mentioning the board isn’t sure what conclusion will be reached at the end of the meetings. “But we do know that the mural can’t be restored. It could be replaced, a new piece could go up or it can be some combination of the two, but it cannot be restored.”

District staff said a sign-up procedure will be announced and every effort will be made to accommodate all interested parties.

“We are pleased that Ms. Golden has agreed to guide this community process on reimagining the mural space at the Obama Center,” said SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati. “We are confident that her passion and expertise for mural art along with her personal connection to this space will ensure that our final design choice will take all factors and interests into consideration. The new mural will be a source of community pride and enjoyment for decades to come.”

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