City decides: ‘Surfing Madonna’ mosaic must go

ENCINITAS — Despite pleas from some residents, City Council unanimously agreed to fund a study to ensure the best way to remove the rogue art that has drawn hundreds of visitors and garnered national attention.
The council voted to appropriate $2,000 for an art consulting group to determine the best way to remove the eclectic six-paneled mosaic, which features Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard with the words “Save the Ocean,” attached to a concrete structure under the railroad bridge that crosses Encinitas Boulevard just west of Vulcan Avenue.
A secretive crew posing as construction workers installed the colorful 10-foot by 10-foot mosaic just before Easter.
North County Transit District owns the railroad bridge, but the support area falls within land that the city maintains under a decades-old property management agreement with the transit district according to assistant city manager Richard Philips.
The public art has received overwhelming support but council members made it clear in the meeting on May 18 that the unsanctioned art had no place on public property. Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said allowing it to stay in its current spot actually gives future “artists” a potential defense should the city try to seek legal action against them.
Some speakers rallied against keeping the art on public property and expending funds on researching ways to bring it down.
Amy Sies, an Encinitas resident, said the piece is inappropriate for its current spot and that it should come down no matter its condition.
“I think religious art has no place on public property,” she said.
Stan Gafner, a self-proclaimed artist, agreed.
He said the artists’ actions are “cowardly” and that he, she, or they should be prosecuted. He implored the council not to spend any taxpayer money to fund a study of how to best remove the piece of art with the least amount of damage.
But others addressed the council in favor of keeping the art in place. Dody Crawford, president of the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, called the mosaic a “miracle in a skeptical world.” She described it as “thoughtful, beautiful and joyous” and encouraged the council to leave it in place in order to preserve it.
Several local businesses have offered to display the piece on their private property if it is removed. Residents at the council meeting also brought up the idea of privately raising money once the firm, Sculpture Conservation Studio, finishes its study.
As Stocks announced he supported the motion to spend $2,000 to study removal of the piece, Sies stood up from the back of the council chambers and shouted that he was a hypocrite.
After a short verbal exchange, Stocks motioned for Sheriff‘s deputies to ask Sies to leave the meeting. The officers approached her seat at the back of the council chambers and she exited council chambers without further incident.


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