ENCINITAS — Before the mosaic drew national attention and the artist was revealed, requests to purchase the “Surfing Madonna” poured in to the city. Most inquiries were not made public as City Council and staff grappled with how to deal with the unsanctioned art that was labeled “graffiti” by some inside City Hall.
However, one party that sent the City Council an offer letter May 23 said they had yet to hear back from anyone at City Hall. Solana Beach residents Peter House and Carol Childs also reached out to the artist’s attorney with an offer to purchase the mosaic after Patterson came forward.
“It’s no longer an orphaned piece of art,” House said. He’s not sure why the city has not responded to his letter, but a source that wished to remain anonymous said the council was not aware of his offer.
The couple plans to publicly display the art on their private property near the ocean in Solana Beach, if allowed to purchase it.
“The city has to make up its mind about what it’s going to do,” House said. “Solana Beach would welcome it, I’m sure.”
“The city has received numerous offers to purchase the mosaic. It’s evolved because of the sequence of events,” Assistant City Manager Richard Phillips said. Phillips said he suspects that nothing will happen until such time as the legal issues are resolved.
The council voted to appropriate $2,000 for an art consulting group to determine the best way to remove the six-paneled mosaic, which features Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard with the words “Save the Ocean,” attached to a concrete structure under the railroad bridge that crosses Encinitas Boulevard just west of Vulcan Avenue.
A secretive crew posing as construction workers installed the 10-foot by 10-foot mosaic just before Easter. Inspectors from the Los Angeles-based Sculpture Conservation Studio said it would be difficult to remove the piece without causing significant damage. Yet, House said art conservationists that he retained reported that the mosaic could be safely removed with little harm to the structure or the artwork.
The North County Transit District owns the railroad bridge, but the support area falls within land that the city maintains under a decades-old property management agreement with the transit district, according to Philips.
House said deciding on the fate of the mosaic is crucial to its survival. He worried that random defacement of the piece could derail any plans to preserve it.
“If the artist wants us to help him we are ready at a moment’s notice,” said Dody Crawford, executive director of the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association. The group is part of a coalition, including the Leucadia Town Council and the Leucadia 101 Mainstreet Association. Crawford said the group is prepared to assist in providing funds to remove, restore, maintain and preserve the mosaic.