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Residents ask for public art reprieve

ENCINITAS — A few residents urged City Council on April 27 to grant amnesty to a surfing Madonna mosaic secretly installed under a railroad trestle along one of the town’s busiest roadways. The speakers requested that the piece of art be left alone to adorn the city’s main entrance.
While the council is not allowed to address speakers’ questions during the session, city officials have said that the mural must be removed and wondered how much damage will be done to the existing structure in the process.
“It fits the definition of graffiti,” said Richard Phillips, assistant city manager. The city’s anti-graffiti ordinance is broad enough to include more than just someone spray-painting a wall. Rather, it is written to cover everything from advertising stickers to messages scratched into surfaces, he added.
The eclectic mosaic, which features Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard with the words “Save the Ocean,” is attached to a concrete structure under the railroad bridge that crosses Encinitas Boulevard just west of Vulcan Avenue.
Several people asked the council to let it remain in place for at least 90 days and urged the city to grant amnesty to the mosaic’s creators if they step forward and admit that they made it. City officials said they were considering whether to file a complaint with law enforcement and seek removal costs from the artist or artists.
“As vandals go, we are dealing with a highly evolved species here,” Leucadia resident Kathleen Lees said. She said she considered the mosaic to be lovely and beautifully installed. The 10-foot square stained-glass mosaic of a surfing Madonna mysteriously appeared under the downtown train bridge last week.
Mike Clark, an Encinitas resident, offered to assist the city with preserving the “first-rate” art. He told city officials that if they would allow the mosaic to go through the city’s regular public art review process in the next 90 days, he personally would put up Plexiglass to protect it.
The city and the North County Transit District, which is the government agency that owns the bridge, have determined that the mosaic is within an area that the city controls.
Phillips emphasized that the city has a standard public art review process in which the city’s Arts Commission vets proposals. But some residents did not know the origin of the art and were unconcerned about its lack of confirmation by the city. “I think that anyone who spent this much time and energy and made such a beautiful piece of art for everyone to enjoy should be thanked, not demonized,” said Paul Francis, an Escondido resident who came to Encinitas specifically to view the mural. “I think the city should let this one go (and keep it in place).”
Officials are meeting with the city attorney early next week to determine how best to proceed.


gferry April 29, 2011 at 7:37 am

I was recently in the city of Valparaiso, Chile. It rivals San Francisco in every way in its beauty, culture, industry, architecture, etc. One thing it has over San Francisco is its "spontaneous public art". I posted pictures on my website pictures from a 20 minute walk www greggferry com/travel/2011/03/18/
Art cannot survive in a box. It needs to be let free. Once you assign rules and regulations, it ceases to be art. In public art, there is a continuous spectrum from trashy, tagging, graffiti to true works of personal expression that can be appreciated by most of the community.
I say, do not take down this piece, but rewrite the law so that the community as a whole can decide whether a piece of spontaneous public art should stay or go.
Besides, this didn’t cost the city anything! And it is every bit as good as "The Kook"
(Do any of you remember "The Pink Lady" painted over the tunnel on Mulholland Drive?)

Dr. Anthony Corso April 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I consider this a great piece of sacred art. It has truly blessed Encinitas with its evocative plea to Save the Ocean.It is more than just another spray painting; it was obvious done with considerable devotion and care.
I trust that the City will do whatever it can to preserve it from vandalism and not destroy it because some beaucratic rules and regulations.I for one would be willing to contribute to the costs of its preservation.

Jon404 April 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm

It’s a lovely mosaic; you don’t need plexiglass to protect it — Roman mosaics are still bright and fresh after 2,000 years.
Here’s hoping the artists could make a similar facing mosaic, across the street, of Vishnu surfing, to give a nod to the folks at Swamis.
To the city government: shut up, go away, you’re just not needed when it comes to public art.

Ruya83 April 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Please don’t take it down, is beautiful.

anonymous April 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I just drove by and got a first glimps of it. There were many flowers at the base and about 9 people were clustered around it.

It is obviously highly symbolic and meaningful to many people, and I think it might even attract tourists to the downtown area.

I understand that it appeared in an unconventional way, but the entire Guadalupe story is very similar in its mystical attraction. Why not leave it and let us enjoy something that is so superior to the dirty pilar?

anonymous May 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Its beautiful! Let’s keep it!!!

Clizidark May 1, 2011 at 6:24 pm

It is super beautiful. I wish it could stay up. Those guys who put it up should just go tell the city who they are and at least try to go through the process of having it approved. . . maybe there’d be a chance to have it stay up. . . .I mean, wouldn’t it be better than just having it torn down for sure? What do they have to lose?

anonymous May 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Sorry, it is graffiti just as the City says. And it is Christian religious graffiti, not to some people’s taste. And leaving it up sets a precedent that any jerk with some Liquid Nails can glue stuff to public property and get away with it. Better to set up an art advisory panel and have a procedure for public review of changes to public property BEFORE they are made.

anonymous May 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

It is quality art. However, bureaucrats being what they are, they require control over what goes up as art. This is a sponaneous and quality exhibit and enhances life in downtown Encinitas–it should be encouraged–just like the periodic dressing up of the "Kook" in Cardiff. It will enhance the community and bring it attention.
I doubt that it will encourage "graffiti" As long as it is quality art and enhances, let it be.

anonymous May 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I agree that this is fine art and that it has broad appeal to many different audiences. It has individual meaning to everyone who sees it, and it speaks to and touches different people in different ways. I say that we should keep it!

Carlsbadcrawl May 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Check out the Surfing Madonna’s score in the first "Sanctioned Street Art Rubric"…
Do you agree with the score?

Miss Molly May 5, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I would rather have this beautiful gift than what some art council determines is appropriate. If this is graffiti — graffiti the entire city.

Hossein mohamadi June 16, 2011 at 1:23 am

Hey that sounds cool. Maybe I should paint a few Muslim symbols on the other side. Anyone oppose to that? Or what if it was done already instead of that?

Worth Considering June 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

Houssein Mohamadi’s idea of placing Arabic calligraphy opposite the surfing Guadalupe is not an offensive idea to me, nor is it a new one. The Byzantine church, Hagia Sophia, built by Justinian in current city of Istanbul, Turkey, originally had beautiful glass mosaics which were plastered after the Ottoman Turks conquered the region. It is now a mosque that has Arabic calligraphy as its main decoration.

Encinitas is a very adventurous and artistic community that is receptive to new ideas. Many in our town even wear tattoos that are Chinese characters that they find appealing—but which they may not even understand the meaning of. There is a story going around that someone selected some symbols for a tattoo, and actually paid to have something that translated to, ‘diarrhea happiness mother,’ or some such silly thing placed on his arm.

Interpreting Islam calligraphy is also very specialized, so I think that the actual level of artistic ability and the intention behind how it would be done is what would matter the most to me—just as it was important to the creator of the Madonna.

I really think that Encinitas residents in general are more open-minded than the City Council may think. I think that those who are offended might consider greater tolerance of differences, and focus instead on the problems that concern us all such as preserving community character, open government, and competent legal and financial advisors for our city.

Hossein Mohamadi June 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Thank you so much for your post. I was not expecting that at all to be honest with you. I thought I would see a lot of heated posts since this site allows anonymous posting. I am very shocked honest to god.
I just want to clear that I do love the painting and I hope they would leave it alone. You make a very point about the Ottoman Turks; However, wasn’t that centuries ago.

Hossein mohamadi June 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Thank you so much for what your post. I was not expecting that at all to be honest with you. I thought I would see a lot of heated posts since this site allows anonymous posting. I am very shocked honest to god.
I just want to clear that I do love the painting and I hope they would leave it alone. You make a very point about the Ottoman Turks; However, wasn’t that centuries ago.

Worth Considering June 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm

It is unfortunate that Encinitas citizens as a city of 60,000 residents are being associated with the views of those few who hold titles such as Mayor, Assistant Mayor, City Manager or City Attorney. We had this problem when their views were wrongly linked to us regarding the I-5 widening, too.

It is interesting to note that 14th century Ottoman Turks had a greater appreciation and respect of great art with religious overtones than what is being modeled by some of our modern Encinitas leaders. As many people from various parts of the world say, it is not the average people who are the problems in the world–it is people who are in leadership roles who usually create the problems!

Encinitas is a welcome home to people from every part of the world.

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