ENCINITAS – The “Save The Ocean” mosaic, which is best known as “The Surfing Madonna,” created by artist Mark Patterson, may have a new home at the northwest corner of Highway 101 and Encinitas Boulevard near Moonlight Beach Park sometime early next June.
The new site isn’t far from where the unsolicited mosaic was originally installed in broad daylight, April 22 underneath a train bridge on Encinitas Boulevard.
Patterson removed the artwork in June at the cost of the artist, including paying a city fine after Encinitas Attorney Anton Gerschler helped Patterson negotiate with the City of Encinitas to take down the mosaic, which the city determined was graffiti because of its unsanctioned status.
With the outpouring of public support, Patterson formed the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, a secular, nonprofit public benefit corporation whose stated mission is to promote public art and ocean environmental protection. The Board of Directors, comprised of Patterson,Bob Nichols, who had helped to install the mosaic, Wendy Pacofskiy, Scot Cheatham and Anton Gerschler, voted unanimously to approve the new location for public placement at the busy portal to Moonlight Beach.
The new site is on public property, which is owned by the state and maintained by the city.
Patterson intended to give the mosaic to the city as a gift, which is a process that takes several months, explained City Arts Administrator Jim Gilliam. “The recommendation will go to the City Council and they either accept it or deny it or send it back for additional work. It is just starting the process of being considered,” he added.
Patterson modified his intent Thursday afternoon, opting to instead to loan the mosaic to the city.
Gerschler saw the proposed site while sitting at a traffic light not long after the mosaic had been taken down and suggested the location to Patterson. “It just jumped out at me as a natural spot,” he said.
“At about the same time, Gilliam reached out to Mark and I with a suggestion that the mosaic be relocated to the south wall of the adjacent ‘Lofts’ condo/business building, which is private property,” Gerschler said.
“I am quite sure he was urging a private location at the urging of city officials anxious to deflect the controversy that might ensue if the City Library location that was then being talked about was to be pursued by Mark,” he added.
The corner lot is in plain view of thousands of motorists and pedestrians daily, he said, adding that there is plenty of room for safe pedestrian viewing without the traffic issues involved at the original location.
Gerschler spoke to John Frenken of the Encinitas Parks and Recreation department and said the city had no development plans for that particular parcel.
Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks was at the location with Patterson on Thursday and even he agrees that the location is a good one, Gerschler added.
“The one and only remaining roadblock are certain concerns about the religious imagery seen in the mosaic. But what people need to understand (especially our elected officials) is that displaying a piece of art containing a historical religious icon on public property is not against the law and does not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Gerschler said.
“This piece was intended by Mark to be a gift to the community and it needs to go back up as public art,” Gerschler said. “Mark has paid his fine and done his “penitence” (Maggie Houlihan’s reference), and now it is time for the City’s elected officials to show the political will necessary to give this iconic art work a permanent home in the public eye, located at the portal to Encinitas’ central Moonlight Beach and the ocean that is so desperately in need of being saved.”
The Commission for the Arts will hold a special meeting Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers.