News & Advocacy

City Council Unanimously Approves Request to Cease Installation of Temporary Scrim Over Murals

February 25, 2022

On February 22nd, City Council unanimously approved a motion agreeing to the Santa Monica Conservancy’s request to not proceed with covering the historic murals in City Hall.

“Request of Councilmembers de la Torre and Parra that Council directs staff to no longer install a temporary scrim over the Stanton Macdonald-Wright murals in the lobby of Santa Monica City Hall and to instead direct staff to launch of a process that engages and educates our community and results in the addition of artwork within the lobby to create a more inclusive and complete story of our City’s history and vision for our future to advance the City’s commitment to equity, justice and respect for all and, in the interim, direct staff to explore the creation of a temporary lobby display around the themes that will be explored during the larger community education and engagement process.” (See the City Council agenda here.)

Photos: Historical Marker Database

This motion reversed a prior action taken by City Council in May 2021 to cover the murals with a scrim because they were perceived as racist and not reflective of our current values. The Conservancy’s leadership helped to forge this positive outcome by advocating to preserve the murals in City Hall, which are landmarked, and providing education from a historic perspective while endorsing the creation of new information and public art to promote racial justice. To all our members and friends, who wrote letters and emails to City Council to support our position, we thank you – we could not have done it without your support.

Councilmembers de la Torre and Parra thanked the Conservancy for its constructive role and described some of the future ideas to implement their motion: creating new materials to engage children in understanding the themes of the murals and hiring a consultant to steer the community education and involvement process. We will keep you informed of those next steps.

Notable in this controversy was the failure of City staff to use the legal protections of our landmarks ordinance to acknowledge this potentially adverse action, and to refer this matter to the Landmarks Commission. The WPA-era murals by renowned artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright, a Santa Monica resident, were identified as character-defining features of City Hall when the building was designated in 1979 and reaffirmed in numerous City documents subsequently. The Conservancy will need to follow up to ensure that all material and spatial characteristics of City Hall interiors are recognized as having historic significance so that there is no misunderstanding in the future.

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