The nonprofit Surfing Madonnas Ocean Project has agreed to loan a new mosaic, “The Pacific Playground,” to the city of Encinitas for display at the new Moonlight Beach marine safety center. The group’s president, Bob Nichols, left, is pictured with artist Manny Corona, volunteer Darcy Baker and lead artist Don Myer. Courtesy photo.
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Nonprofit to loan mosaic to city for new lifeguard station

ENCINITAS — A nonprofit organization that originally had agreed to donate a new mosaic to Encinitas for the wall of its new lifeguard tower will instead provide it to the city on a long-term loan.

The Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, the nonprofit that spawned from the eponymously named guerilla art mosaic, commissioned a second glass mosaic entitled “The Pacific Playground” for the city’s $3.7 million marine safety center at Moonlight Beach.

In 2016, the City Council and nonprofit approved an agreement that called for the nonprofit to donate the mosaic to the city.

But, at last week’s meeting, the City Council approved a change to the arrangement that calls for the nonprofit to lease the piece to the city for five years, followed by two, five-year lease extensions if both parties agree.

Both sides must give each other 30 days to terminate the lease.

Surfing Madonna President Bob Nichols said the nonprofit reconsidered its original agreement because it would be relinquishing its rights to the mosaic.

“If we donated it forever and just gave it to the city, we would never be able to use any images of the mosaic again, we wouldn’t be able to put it on shirts, medals, the website and that was a big stinger for us,” Nichols said. “And we would still be responsible for insurance, and pay for all of the maintenance and cleaning, and we would be responsible for any injuries.

“I liken it to giving the city a car, and under the agreement, we wouldn’t be able to drive it, but would still have to pay for insurance and maintenance,” Nichols said.

The five-year intervals will give both the city and the nonprofit the flexibility to continue to have the art displayed or for the city to display another artwork if it so chooses, Nichols said. Also, if the city does not want to keep the art, the nonprofit will still have ownership rights and the city would not be able to throw it away, he said.

“We spent a year and a half on this piece and well over $30,000, so it would be an absolute tragedy if the city one day said, ‘we’re tired and we want to get rid of it,’” Nichols said. “We didn’t want that to happen, and we all asked how can we make this so that it doesn’t happen. The best solution was to do it in five-year terms.”

The new mosaic will depict the various fish and marine wildlife below the surface of the ocean.

Originally, several artists were commissioned on the piece: renowned ocean artist Scott Walt, illustrator Peggy Sue Florio Zepeda, glass producer/finisher Bob Zepeda and Mark Patterson, who created the original “Surfing Madonna” mosaic in 2011. However, sometime in 2016, the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project shifted course and commissioned stained-glass artist Don Meyer to do the piece.

The city has almost completed the state-of-the-art lifeguard tower and safety complex, which is expected to stand at Moonlight Beach for the next half century. The art would be erected on the northwest wall of the building, with a separate panel reading “Save the Ocean” on the adjoining wall and a technical legend and artist-recognition plaque on another adjoining wall.

City officials expect to dedicate the building in early 2018.