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Public Weighs in on Replacing 'Muir Woods' Mural

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica College
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By Jorge Casuso

February 5, 2020 -- Santa Monica's iconic Muir Woods mural will be scraped off a high school's walls in Ocean Park, but at least part of the existing artwork will resurface when they are repainted.

That seemed to be the general sentiment after three days of meetings led by artist Jane Golden, who painted the now dilapidated mural at a prominent corner of Lincoln and Ocean Park boulevards in 1978.

"Muir Woods" mural by Jane Golden
"Muir Woods" mural by Jane Golden (Courtesy City of Santa Monica)

"The majority of the participants at the discussions were in favor of a compromise solution that would maintain parts of the existing mural," said School Board President Jon Keane.

"A smaller group was adamant about 'all or nothing,'" Keane said.

After leading the community meetings that took place from January 30 to February 1, Golden concluded that the mural on the recently renamed Michelle and Barack Obama Center for Inquiry and Exploration cannot be restored.

The surface needs to be scraped off and the walls strengthened before a new artwork can replace it, said Golden, who will issue a report to the School District.

While there was general support for recreating at least part of the existing mural painted when the school was named after the famous California conservationist, some students opposed the proposal.

"The students who spoke were passionate about social justice, environmental justice, and they wanted representations that spoke to their world view as well," Keane said.

Local activist Jerry Rubin -- a staunch advocate of preserving trees -- remained adamant about recreating the original mural depicting the Redwood forest in Northern California named for Muir.

In an open letter sent Wednesday, Rubin said there is community support to have "the beloved forest-themed mural BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE!"

"The many creative mural art ideas by the students," Rubin wrote, can be pursued on nearby walls or planters "without sacrificing any of the Muir Woods complete and expansive repainted beauty."

The School Board will have the final say on the artwork painted on the large walls after an open process, which will include community input, structured by Jane Golden and Mural Arts, the artist's Philadelphia-based non-profit.

"We want to hear from as many community members as possible and to accomplish that we will be open to any and all ways of reaching them," Keane said.

Last week's meetings were held three and a half months after the
the School Board halted plans to erase the artwork ("Muir Woods" Mural Gets Reprieve from School Board," October 18, 2019).

Staff had initially recommended painting over the dilapidated mural, noting that the led paint has peeled, leaving "an unsightly set of walls."

But activists quickly launched a campaign to restore or faithfully recreate the artwork, leading to the Board's reprieve ("Santa Monica Activists Relaunch Campaign to Save 'Muir Woods' Mural," October 2, 2019).

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