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Commission considers proposed placement for renowned mosaic

ENCINITAS — As part of the public art community action plan, the city’s Arts Commission discussed a process to include the “Save The Ocean,” a.k.a. the “Surfing Madonna” mosaic Sept. 12.
Mark Patterson, who created the mosaic and has received national attention for placing the artwork, without permission under the railroad crossing at Encinitas Boulevard in April, attended the meeting.
“My goal is to get the mosaic placed at a location that’s big enough to hold the 10-foot panel, that’s accessible and close to the original location,” Patterson said after the meeting.
Rather than placing the artwork on private property, Patterson chose an often-overlooked parcel of land leased to the city by the state on the northwest corner of Coast Highway 101 and Encinitas Boulevard.
Patterson looks to loan the art to the city, ensuring that he retains ownership of the art. There is no payment arrangement in the plan Patterson said, but the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, a nonprofit that he recently established, will fund the installation and maintenance.
“My goal is to have all of the documents in place so it can be installed in June,” Patterson said.
“The Entrance to Moonlight Beach is the perfect home for the ‘Surfing Madonna,’” Patterson said. Covered in native plants, the small patch of land would allow the mosaic to be visible in a highly populated area.
“The whole point of the mosaic is save the ocean, so it makes sense to have it in that location,” Patterson said. “The save the ocean message is valid and the more prominent that it is, is important. Even if someone makes a shift in their actions that helps the ocean, then even better.”
Patterson believes that we are facing catastrophic species extinction in our lifetime. All of that went into his design of the “Surfing Madonna” and the placement of the “Save the Ocean” wording. “The cloak (on the Madonna) is pointing towards the ‘Save the Ocean’ wording, the wave is arcing onto the message as well. I was trying to be as subtle, yet as effective as possible on that message,” he said.
Newly appointed Commissioner Georgia Schmid said there were benefits to installing the art but that there needs to be a list put into place so the payback is clarified.
“I love the idea of art all over the city but what does the commission have to do with placing art on privately owned dwellings?” Commissioner Erica Bauxbaum asked.
Commissioner Dody Crawford, who is the executive director of the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association, referenced that group’s program to assist local merchants with façade improvements as an analogy to the potential relationship between the city, artists and private property owners.
Jim Gilliam, the city’s arts administrator, said that the plan was an ongoing effort and invited comments from the public and other commissioners. He also suggested that the city’s community grant program, which provides funding to local nonprofit organizations would allow for an individual collaborating with a selected group to receive a grant.
“What I’ve been grateful for is all the notoriety. It helps me make sure that message is prominent,” Patterson said.
He said there are private placement options for the artwork, but those present a host of challenges, including changes in ownership and possible foreclosure.
“It gets complicated pretty quickly,” he said. “If it’s on long term loan to the city, it would be the best situation.”