Surfing Madonna Mosaic to Be Removed

Local businesses interested in displaying the art

After weeks of debate, Encinitas city leaders all agree a mosaic that mysteriously appeared on an Encinitas train trestle last month will be removed.

Anonymous artists put up the so-called “Surfing Madonna”, a 10 x 10 stained-glassed tile mosaic.  The piece some consider art, others consider graffiti, mysteriously appeared Easter weekend under the train trestle on Encinitas Boulevard between Highway 101 and Vulcan Avenue in Encinitas.

It has drawn the admiration of onlookers. But it’s been a costly headache for city leaders.

After its meeting last night, the Encinitas City Council unanimously voted to spend up to $2,000 for a Los Angeles-based art conservation firm to test various removal techniques, according to our media partners the North County Times. 

Even it if can't be removed safely, there are too many legal issues to be able to keep it up Encinitas Mayor James Bond said Thursday.

"It's coming down," Bond said.

The artwork, which shows Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard, has drawn complaints because some feel it is offensive as a religious symbol. They say it should be taken down. But not everyone agrees.

“It doesn’t need to come down,” said Laura Bottarini who believes the piece represents the free-spirited lifestyle of the coastal communities Encinitas, Leucadia and Cardiff.

“It’s a sad day when the city has looked at taking it down instead of preserving it because we all know there’s a way they can preserve it and keep it,” she said.

“I think it does symbolize Encinitas. I think what’s complicated is that happens to be a great piece of art, it really works,” said Kristin Markell. “I think the city is thinking ‘if we allow this then we open the gate for more people to just put whatever and the next piece may not be as wonderful' and then what do you do?"

“I think this particular piece is wonderful but I understand it’s complicated,” she said.

The phrase "Save the Ocean" runs along the side of the mural but so far, no one has claimed responsibility for it. 

The city has already paid $2,000 to a Los Angeles art studio to study the piece. Among the findings: Whoever put it up, doesn’t want it to come down easily. Eight panels are attached with high strength epoxy glue. The artwork could last up to 10 years.

The Encinitas City Manager's office said there have been a lot of interest from businesses willing to display the piece of art if it is removed, including the 7-Eleven on D Street and the historic Captain Keno's on North Coast Highway. 

Gerry Sova has owned Keno's for 40 years.  He says if the city would pay to remove the art, he would build a wall to display it on outside his restaurant. 

He says he would not be doing it for the attention or the business, but rather so the artwork can still be enjoyed.

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