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‘Surfing Madonna’ One Step Closer to Being Displayed near Moonlight Beach

The mosaic could be installed as soon as April, if the state gives the green light.

When the ‘Surfing Madonna’ , the national limelight soon followed — but because it was installed on public property without permission, the . These days the artwork sits behind locked doors in storage, but Wednesday night, the ‘Surfing Madonna’ got one step closer to seeing the light of day again in Encinitas.  

The Encinitas City Council unanimously voted for that would let the city borrow the mosaic from artist Mark Patterson and display it , at the northwest corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Coast Highway.

Because that location sits on a piece of land that is owned by the state, it will also have to approve the proposal. If the state gives the green light, the ‘Surfing Madonna’ could be back on display between April and June. 

Under the , the artwork — which is officially titled Save the Ocean but commonly called the ‘Surfing Madonna’ — would be loaned to the city at no cost. Installation costs would be covered by and a matching grant of up to $10,000 from the Mizel Family Foundation. If the artwork ever has to be taken down or is the subject of a lawsuit, Patterson will be responsible for removing it or handling the litigation.

The agreement makes sense for the city, said Tim Lueker, one of the Commission for the Arts ad hoc members who before recommending it to City Council.

“This [mosaic] put us on the map — the city is getting a lot of publicity from this artwork,” he said, and then added that the ‘Surfing Madonna’ was likely to bolster the economy by bringing in more tourists. He also pointed out that according to a survey conducted during the review process, about 90 percent of the community liked the artwork.

Among those ‘Surfing Madonna’ fans is California State Assemblyman Martin Garrick, who sent a field representative to tell City Council he stands ready to lend his support at the state level.

Though Patterson has contended the artwork aims to raise awareness about sea conservation, as evidenced by its title at the predominate text in the artwork that reads ‘Save the Ocean,’ some have raised concerns over the religious undertones because Our Lady of Guadalupe is depicted. Encinitas City Councilwoman Teresa Barth said as a Mexican American Catholic, she felt the image was a cultural icon and likened it to Catholic missions, which are interweaved into our state’s history and heritage. Tony Kranz, a candidate for Encinitas City Council, also publically spoke on the issue as a Catholic. He said though he was hesitant at first, he became a fan after he sat near the ‘Suring Madonna’ for about an hour admiring how the sun glistened off its surface.

“She’s a piece of work that sings to you,” he said. “I became a convert that day.” 

Councilman Mark Muir also added that he felt the ‘Surfing Madonna’ aligned with the beach culture in this part of Encinitas, and was especially relevant in a community with such a vibrant art community. Encinitas Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar also shared that she has a scrapbook featuring the ‘Surfing Madonna.’ 

The proposal will now go before the State Parks’ San Diego Coast District for consideration. City Staff said any residents who would like to contact the State Parks Department with their thoughts about the 'Surfing Madonna' should get in touch with district superintendent Clay Phillips. According to contact information listed on the state’s website, he can be reached at cphillip@parks.ca.gov or (619) 688-3260. 

Editor’s Note: Based on reader feedback, Encinitas Patch has created a topic page dedicated to the ‘Surfing Madonna.’ Simply click on the “News” tab at the top of our homepage, and then select ‘Surfing Madonna’ from the drop-down menu. Here you’ll find a backlog of related stories, photos, blog posts and events. The page will be updated as content is uploaded to the site.  

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David Miliotis January 26, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Let the Surfing Madonna shine her grace upon us again!
Eric Simpson January 29, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I'm an atheist, and I LOVE the Surfing Madonna! Yes, it has religious undertones, but the iconography is used in a fun way that makes it clear that the main message is an environmental one, not a religious one (and does so without insulting those of a religious bent). I really hope the state approves this wonderful piece of public art.

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