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Thalia Street Beach murals in limbo after talks

Two applications to create painted murals on the Thalia Street Beach retaining wall were stalled Monday for lack of a motion by Arts Commissioners.

Competing applications were filed by artist John Chaney and by Kalos Kagathos Foundation, on behalf of Jeff Lavinsky.

The foundation has commissioned Lavinsky to replace Chaney’s work on the wall, which the foundation had originally commissioned before a falling out with the artist.

Since no action was taken by the commission, the applications are moot, unless the matter is appealed to the City Council.

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“This is an unusual circumstance,” city Arts Manager Sian Poeschl said. “It is the first time in my history with the city that two separate applications [have been submitted] to install a mural on one wall.

“The wall belongs to the city. It has been painted in the past and approved by Bruce [Hopping], although never approved or authorized by the city. It was brought to us so [a mural] could be installed with the proper permits.”

Commissioner Bill Atkins, chair of the Mural Committee, put the two applications on the commission agenda to discuss an installation by either of the artists and acceptance of the temporary art work as a donation to the city’s public art collection.

Murals require the approval of the Arts Commission, Poeschl said.

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“I will be filing an appeal,” foundation founder Hopping said.

The foundation first commissioned a mural in 1976 on the retaining wall, which is city property. A succession of murals followed.

“The murals have been dedicated to the boys and girls who have lost their lives while in school,” Hopping said. “The most recent [commission] was John Chaney, who did not complete the mural and I am turning it over to Jeff Lavinsky.”

Chaney disputed Hopping’s accusation.

“He thought I never finished it, but a painting is finished when the artist is done,” Chaney said.

Chaney said he was commissioned by Hopping to redo a faded mural already on the wall, dedicated to the late Tommy Chambers and Max Caputo.

“I didn’t just paint over it; I did more,” Chaney said. “The mural was loved by people in Laguna.”

Chaney claimed the mural has been desecrated with a wash of turquoise paint to cover his work.

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He also questioned Hopping’s statement that he had paid the artist $500 for the restoration.

However, Hopping presented to the commission photocopies of checks made out to Chaney and signed by Hopping totaling $500 for the “Chambers Caputo mural.”

Resident Jackie Gallagher advised the commission that it is illegal to cover a mural, a state law passed in 1992.

“The problem is that I can find nothing [to indicate] that the mural was ever authorized, so I don’t know if the protection applies,” Poeschl said.

A tearful Doug Du Maurier said the Chaney mural was a city treasure.

“Everybody loved that mural,” said Du Maurier, torn between Chaney and Hopping, with whom he claimed longtime friendships.

“I am not taking sides, although I was quoted as being a Chaney loyalist, and I feel so bad for John. I hope it can be made right. I just wish it hadn’t been erased.”

An appeal of the commission’s non-action must be filed within 14 days of Monday’s meeting, at a cost of $650, unless the appellant can convince a city council member to file the appeal, for which there is no charge.

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