On a unanimous vote, all seven members of the Laguna Beach city Arts Commission Monday agreed to allow artist Randy Morgan to keep the unapproved revisions he made to his Waterman’s Wall mural.
The mural was approved three years ago, but Morgan eventually added elements and depictions that were not part of the original approval, such as surfing, skimboarding and stand-up paddle figures, lifeguards, and a catamaran with a Hobie “H” logo on its sail.
The commission could have voted to have those elements, or even the entire mural, removed. But in the end, that was something no one wanted.
“The last thing I want to see is Randy out there with a hammer and a chisel and a grinder,” said commissioner Ken Auster. “It is my opinion to allow all of the changes that were made to stand. It is what it is. That art isn’t going to be removed from that wall, and to start putzing around with it at this point isn’t going to add or detract or do anything different.”
Commissioner Mary Ferguson expressed concern that someone could break off one of the three-dimensional pieces of the mural, but Morgan, who was in attendance, replied that “nothing was going to bring that down.”
Commissioner Donna Ballard also asked about the possibility of people catching their hand in some of the spots, and she was echoed by Commissioner Nick Martinez. “People do the craziest things and get their hands and feet caught in the craziest places,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez also had questions about cracks that had developed in the mural. Morgan agreed to repair any cracking, as well as alter the mural to fill in gaps so people can’t get body parts caught in the piece. He also agreed to reduce the surfboard portion that sticks out over the sidewalk.
Ballard also asked about the Hobie “H” logo on the catamaran, which Morgan claimed was removed. The logo has actually not been removed, however, just painted over.
Auster and Hernandez commented about the artistic quality of the mural and told Morgan that they would like to see some parts improved.
“I was a little disappointed, to the point where I found a lot of the elements to be amateurish,” said Auster. Hernandez asked Morgan to work on some parts of the figures anatomy and said some of the execution was “subpar."
The mural has become a flashpoint of controversy for issues other than safety, with accusations of the mural's finacial contributors not getting what they paid for. Arts Commission chair Pat Kollenda, seemingly aware of this, framed the debate before the meeting's public comment period.
"The only thing we are talking about tonight is changes to the mural as safety issue, we're not talking about any other issue to deal with that mural," Kollenda said.
Morgan had many supporters who spoke before the commission, but there was also one detractor, Mike England, who said the mural was “appalling and disturbing. The artistic rendering is horrendous and has no place on a wall in Laguna Beach.”
The matter of the thank-you plaque, which Patch reported on in our story yesterday, was not raised, as it was not on the agenda. Commissioner Lisa Monsour said that the plaque “is a discussion for another time.”
Randy Morgan, who had previously told Patch that he would have "a lot I’d like to say” after Monday's meeting, had no comment.