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Santa Monica’s ‘Ocean Park Pier’ mural may disappear

by By Colin Newton / Santa Monica Daily Press
08-06-2011

Artist gives permission to remove vandalized historical artwork.

MAIN STREET — The ever changing mural on Main Street and Ocean Park Boulevard is a familiar sight to anyone living in Santa Monica.

“Ocean Park Pier” began as a portrait of the bustling Santa Monica seaside in the 1920s, but soon other artists added their own flourishes, like the infamous image of a surfing George Washington.

The latest unwanted addition is a series of white blobs playing basketball and spraying paint.

It’s almost as if there’s a second mural on top of the original one.

But soon, there may be no mural at all.

“On one hand, it’s heartbreaking; on the other hand, I’m being realistic,” said Jane Golden, the original artist of “Ocean Park Pier.” She recently sent the owners of the property on which the mural is painted written permission to take it down.

It was not an easy decision; the mural was the first that Golden ever painted, she said.

“I will always be grateful to the city of Santa Monica for giving me a start,” Golden said.

Golden’s Santa Monica murals were funded by a grant from the Social and Public Art Resource Center, a non-profit arts organization centered in Venice.

Golden started the murals in the late 1970s and finished them in the early ’80s when she left Santa Monica for Philadelphia.

She now teaches art at the University of Pennsylvania and is an executive director at the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, a public art organization.

Golden was inspired by murals that had been put up around Los Angeles. She wanted to bring that kind of public art to Santa Monica, something that was more accessible for the community than museums and galleries.

Golden said that in the end, she would prefer to have no mural than to have her work defaced by graffiti.

“It’s bittersweet, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” she said of her decision granting permission to remove the mural.

Golden still expresses interest in the area, and would paint a new mural if the owners decide to remove “Ocean Park Pier,” she said.

In the past, attempts to restore the mural have been considered, but have never taken shape.

The city and Golden discussed working together to restore parts of the mural that had been defaced, said Jessica Cusick, Cultural Affairs Manager for Santa Monica.

However, they have never found the opportunity to get Golden into Santa Monica with the resources necessary to repair the mural, Cusick said.

“The sticking point is funding,” she added.

Cusick also said that the mural is on private property, unlike Daniel Alonzo’s “Whale of a Mural” and David Gordon’s “Unbridled,” both of which are on the underpass at Fourth Street and Ocean Park Boulevard.

Those murals, which are on public property, can be cleaned up by the city whenever it sees fit, Cusick said. In order to do the same for murals on private property, the city would need written permission from the property owner.

The surf shop ZJ Boarding House does not own the property, but has leased it since 1988.

“I feel it’s definitely an iconic mural,” Victor Shaw, manager of ZJ Boarding House, said about “Ocean Park Pier.”

Ultimately, Shaw thinks that the mural should be repainted, or that a new one should be put up. His reasoning is as pragmatic as it is artistic.

“If we repaint the wall white, it would be filled with graffiti,” Shaw said.

In the event that “Ocean Park Pier” is removed, Golden’s mural “John Muir Woods” on Lincoln Boulevard can still be seen on the John Muir Elementary School.

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