Artist Stages ‘Kiss-In’ At Port Statue

Port staff prepared for a large crowd

By Lauren Steussy
|  Friday, Feb 17, 2012  |  Updated 3:43 PM PDT
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Images: Midway Museum San Diego

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In response to a recent Port of San Diego decision to end the loan of a famous kissing statue by the bay, one local photographer has staged a “kiss-in.”

The statue’s time on loan to San Diego is nearly over. The WW-II inspired, 25-foot depiction of a Sailor kissing his sweetheart will likely be gone from its perch in Tuna Harbor Park by the end of the month.

Photographer Michael Realpeople says the statue, or at least a version of it should stick around. He believes the statue is a part of history that has inspired romantics from around the world. To preserve the memory of the statue, he arranged for 25 couples to dress in traditional WWII garb on Saturday morning and kiss under the statue for a picture.

But what started out as an art project to commemorate the statue has now turned into a public demonstration which could attract hundreds of romantics kissing for a cause.

“It spread like wildfire,” Real people said.

He began spotting his poster about the photo event as far away as Oceanside. His email inbox became clogged with supporters asking for more information and the number of attendees on the Facebook and Yelp event pages rose. Though he told officials at the Port about the small event, it became clear this wouldn’t be the small photo event he planned for.

When he spoke with Port officials a second time, they informed him he would need to file a permit. Word spread of the conflict, and several other photographers said they would back Realpeople if push came to shove and action was taken.

“I’m not scared of controversy, but that really wasn’t my intention,” said Realpeople, who also photographed the Occupy San Diego movement in the fall.

Both Real People and the Port understood that the number of attendees was rising – however, Realpeople said there was no way he could predict how big the event would be.

“We were hearing many different things from him,” said Jim Hutzelman, Assistant Director of Community Services at the Port of San Diego. “Our main concern is public safety.”

RealPeople claimed an individual at the Port even sent an email suggesting they would shut the event down if he continued planning it.

In response, Hutzelman said he was not aware of any employee in his office issuing that warning – nor were they planning for any conflict. At the most, he said, they alerted safety officials of the event in case of a crowd.

“Based our assessment, it will probably be the kind of thing where they show up, take a picture and then leave, we have no reason to be concerned,” Hutzelman said.

If that is the case, Real People said, he’s glad the Port supports him. The photo event – or demonstration – will be held Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. under the statue in Tuna Harbor Park, according to the event’s Facebook page.
 

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