As promised on the show, below is the statement sent by Santa Monica councilmember Kevin McKeown about the landmark “Chain Reaction” sculpture that is endangered.
For whatever reason, the discussion of Chain Reaction has been framed as
an issue of whether the City of Santa Monica and the City Councilmembers
believe in peace. If I had been on the City Council when Chain Reaction
was offered to the City, I certainly would have voted for it. I am the
Councilmember who in February 2003 brought a community resolution to the
Council opposing the war in Iraq, which was about to start, and ultimately
won a 5-2 vote opposing the war. I take the lead on many difficult
environmental initiatives, including those affecting oil consumption and
climate change, not only for the benefit of we privileged Westsiders, but
because I realize that oil, water, and food production are issues around
which future wars could be triggered.
Nor is this really a matter of ³art.² I am a strong supporter of the arts
in Santa Monica, having championed the preservation of the Bergamot Arts
Center, the designation of airport hangars for subsidized artists¹ space,
and improvement of local laws that create arts funding from development.
The City has an Arts Commission, advisory to the Council, which chose in an
almost-unanimous vote to deaccession the piece and offer it to others.
This was primarily because the maintenance required at this time exceeds
the total budget the Arts Commission and Cultural Trust Fund have to
maintain their ENTIRE collection. The decision was not a repudiation of
Chain Reaction, but a realistic setting of priorities for limited funding.
The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission has given protected status to Chain
The current kerfuffle began with a safety inspection. Chain Reaction
Reaction, in its location across the street from RAND. Remember, when
Chain Reaction was installed, RAND was down Main Street adjacent to the
freeway. One of the interesting aspects of granting RAND the permits to
build their new headquarters was knowing they would be looking at Chain
Reaction every day. I rather enjoyed that.
weighs over five tons, and is inherently top-heavy, being a mushroom
cloud. It has been sitting twenty years in coastal weather, and the
inspection indicated its fabrication may not have been done with enough of
an eye toward long-term durability under such exposure. People may argue
over the actual number, but it is clear some money must be spent to make
Chain Reaction safe for many years to come.
The City is not advocating that Chain Reaction be torn down, as some have
claimed. Last February, when the Council held a well-attended public
hearing on Chain Reaction, we promised to take no further action for a
full year so the community ‹ and I hope that would include a larger
community of those who see Chain Reaction as a peace symbol, not just
Santa Monicans ‹ could find the necessary funding and make it possible for
Chain Reaction to remain on Main Street, where so many believe it belongs.
(The other option, by the way, would not be destruction, but donation.)
That most recent City Council action not only gave supporters an
additional year to fund-raise, but allocated $50,000 as a matching grant
to help get the fundraising started. That is on top of significant City
funding already expended for the examination of the piece and the
installation of temporary measures to make it more safe while fundraising
I would have hoped this would have been embraced as a tremendous
opportunity for the peace community to make a real and visible statement,
gathering people together across geography and generations to preserve
Chain Reaction. The advocates engaged a respected and successful local
grant writer, which gave me great hope that by next February the money
would be available and the followup City Council hearing would be a Chain
Over 5000 people have signed online petitions for Chain Reaction, but I
don¹t know how many have been solicited to contribute. My understanding
is that after most of that year has gone by, only about $30,000 has been
raised, not even enough to fully trigger the $50,000 matching grant the
City Council has already authorized. I¹m sure the Chain Reaction
activists are as disappointed by this as I am.
However, at a time when increased cohesiveness of the peace community
could make Chain Reaction a symbol of the ongoing vitality of the peace
movement, some seem instead to be making some very unpacifist attacks on
the City of Santa Monica, apparently abandoning the fundraising efforts in
an attempt instead to pressure the City to fund Chain Reaction¹s
restoration with tax dollars. While that¹s a decision the Council might
have considered in due time next February, the premature abandonment of
Chain Reaction fundraising efforts may send the wrong message about the
commitment activists feel to participating in messages of peace. If each
of the 5000 people on those petitions had donated $50, we¹d already have a
quarter million dollars in the Cultural Trust Fund and the preservation of
Chain Reaction would be guaranteed, even if it cost a few dollars more.
This won¹t come back to the City Council until next February. There is
still time. I would say to Chain Reaction supporters, reach out to other
peace activists. Put down your brickbats and pull out your checkbooks, if
you believe in Chain Reaction.