YOU MAY HAVE READ
The news story in yesterday’s Daily Press about the weekend meetings to determine the fate of the 41-year-old mural at the corner of Lincoln and Ocean Park.
It’s an accurate news report, but there is more to it and since I was there, here’s some of the story behind the story.
FIRST, THE HEADLINE
Muir Woods Muralist Says Painting is Irreparable.
I’m sure many who love the mural read that and gasped. To those of us, like Jerry and Marissa Rubin and I, founders of the group to Save the Muir Woods Mural (SMWM), who have been working for six years to save it, it was not news.
We were told from the beginning, by various people from the school district, that the wall had deteriorated to the point where it would have to be repaired or rebuilt, and of course that meant that the original mural would go with it. Everyone assumed it wouldn’t be left a blank wall and that something would then be painted there, and we were working to see that Jane Golden’s iconic environmental rendering of a redwood forest would be reproduced exactly, to last another 41 years, or likely longer. Because that’s what so many people told us they wanted.
About the condition of the painting and the wall it’s on were finally resolved by Golden and her expert staff, who inspected it and declared on the last day of public meetings Saturday that the wall could not support a mural painting in its present condition. So now, what next?
GOLDEN’S MURAL ARTS PRESENTATION
Thursday night was spectacular. So inspiring, what she has accomplished, first with a graffiti program, that morphed into a complete mural arts program that has filled the streets of Philadelphia with expansive art covering large buildings. We saw such a wide variety of styles, but all of it excellent. Quite a contrast to Santa Monica, where we are getting more and more paintings on buildings but it’s decoration, not art. Instagram art, it has been called, and “developer graffiti,” I heard that night.
So Golden was the perfect person for the job in Philly, an artist herself but also the kind of savvy political animal who can move through five mayors, without even a local mural preservation ordinance to help her, and do what she’s done.
“We go in and find out what that community wants,” she explained. “We’re not there to tell people what we think would be great, but to advise and help them to realize it. I decided a long time ago that when there is a conflict, we compromise to get the best possible result. I decided I’d rather spend my time creating murals than being in court.”
WHO DOESN’T WANT IT
Some, of course. But my concern from the beginning was the School Board’s promise that they would go with the will of the community, and just how do you determine that? If we could take a vote of everyone in SM I’m confident it would be overwhelming for keeping that exact same mural.
But we still don’t have a clue about how they will make their decision. At the public presentation Thursday night on public art, there may have been one or two naysayers out of everyone who spoke, a small crowd of about 40-50 people. The same held true for a similar-sized group on Saturday, though not quite so near-unanimous.
But how much weight will be given to the smaller groups who met with Golden Friday? She told us there was a complaint that John Muir was a racist. One, you have to examine that allegation, two, you have to account for the times. If something he may have said negates everything else he accomplished then you’d better not ever listen to Wagner again and pack your bags because this nation was founded by slaveholders.
Golden said there was a group of about 18 students who told her they wanted something there to represent them. One, this wall space has become part of the public’s consciousness and heritage, so even though it’s a school district building, after 40 years we all have a claim to it, though not legally. Two, it’s the outside of their school and many students rarely even see it, and they have the entire inside, which already has several student-created murals and room for more. Three, are you going to let this class determine the content of that mural for decades to come, and if so, won’t you need to change it every four years as a new class comes in?
PRIDE AND LOVE FOR THE MURAL
Golden has expressed that several times, even just recently, for her Muir Woods Mural, created when she was just 24. But her working ethic of compromise might work against her personal feelings, and all the people over these six years who have expressed a strong desire to see that same mural continue at that busy intersection.
I have personally received hundreds of emails, most very passionate, from people supporting it, as has Jerry Rubin, and our SMWM Facebook page has recorded hundreds more. Not to mention group and distinguished citizen endorsements:
Sierra Club WLA, SM Recreation and Parks Commission, SM Task Force on the Environment, School Board members Ralph Mechur, Craig Foster, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Oscar de la Torre, State Sen. Ben Allen, City Council member Sue Himmelrich, former mayors Nat Trives, Paul Rosenstein, Jim Conn, Denny Zane, Michael Feinstein, Paul Leaf, current/former chairs/members of SM Arts Commission Mike Myers, Zina Josephs, Elena Allen, Suchi Branfman, Roger Genser, Phil Brock, current/former members of SM Landmarks Commission Leslie Lambert, Barbara Kaplan, Genser, current/former chairs/members of SM Recreation & Parks Commission Phil Brock, John Cyrus Smith, Alan Toy, Vice Chair of Pico Neighborhood Association Maria Loya, minister of Church in Ocean Park Rev. Janet McKeithen, SMDP columnist Jack Neworth, Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians, steering committee SMRR member Michael Tarbet, activists/artists Harry Shearer, Qorianka Kilcher, Susan Hayden, Alexandra Paul, Chuck Levin, Max Gail, Tamara Henry, Michael Salazar, Randy Ziglar, Lori Berezin, Cris Gutierrez, Marcy Winograd, Beth Leder-Pack, Susan Suntree, Ellis Raskin, Ernie Powell, and so many more.
Repaint the exact same mural, please. THAT is what the community wants.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org