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The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will hold three public events to decide the fate of a contentious mural at an Ocean Park school.

The Muir Woods mural became a divisive topic last year as the district prepared to transform the former John Muir Elementary School campus into a new project-based learning school, the Michelle and Barack Obama Center for Inquiry and Exploration. District officials said the 1978 mural should be painted over because it has eroded over time and contains lead, but many community members argue the mural is an iconic work of art worthy of preservation.

In October, the SMMUSD Board of Education voted to halt plans to remove the mural until its painter, Jane Golden, and the community decide whether to replace the artwork. Golden will donate her time to help facilitate three public events on the mural and public art in Santa Monica later this week.

Board President Jon Kean said the three-day community process is not just about the mural, but about the role of public art in the community and how to develop it.

“This isn’t a three-day process just to figure out the mural — it’s bigger than that,” he said.

Kean told the Daily Press last month that Golden advised the district to identify why people connect so strongly with the artwork before determining what should be done with the mural space. Kean said she told him she was flattered that the community was emotionally attached to the artwork, but noted that murals are not permanent and may need to be replaced or rejuvenated.

Golden will lead a discussion about public art in Santa Monica at Santa Monica College’s Orientation Hall on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Speakers will include Golden, members of her team, Mike Myers, chair of the Santa Monica Art Commission, and other guests. After speaker presentations, Golden will guide a round table discussion about public art in Santa Monica and beyond as well as a brief question and answer session.

On Friday, Golden and her team from Mural Arts Philadelphia will hold small group meetings with community members at the Obama Center 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will be an opportunity for members of the community to meet with the Mural Arts team to discuss their feelings about the future of the walls on the Obama Center and potential murals. Please visit to request a time. Space may be limited but best efforts will be made to accommodate all requests.

The events series will conclude with a dialogue about the future of the mural at the Obama Center on Saturday at 10 a.m.

“We are pleased that Ms. Golden has agreed to guide this community process on reimagining the mural space at the Obama Center,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said in a statement. “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.”

For more information about the upcoming events series, please email Kean at

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