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Chromatic Gate Restoration Stirs to Life with Paint Preparation

Rusting hulk of a monument is about to get a fresh coat and a new maintenance program to keep up appearances

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

If all goes as planned, the faded rainbow sculpture that inhabits Santa Barbara’s waterfront should be restored to its full luster by the beginning of April.

The iconic Chromatic Gate, originally installed in 1991, was designed by renowned artist Herbert Bayer, and sits on the corner of Cabrillo Boulevard and Calle Puerto Vallarta.

The gate was last painted in 2000, when funding for the maintenance of the sculpture ran out. Exposure to corrosive salt and the elements have rusted the gate and faded its once vivid colors.

There’s finally some movement to fix the problem, however, and scaffolding and fencing went up around the monument last week, according to a statement issued from the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.

The project is expected to be finished in four to six weeks.

The project hit a snag last year when it was discovered that the paints originally used in the sculpture no longer met environmental standards, and the colors needed to be specifically matched. Navigating the process of private contractors working with the city and county also proved time consuming.

South Coast Fine Art Conservation and Fitzpatrick Specialty Painting are at the helm of the work.

Showing the wear of exposure to corrosive marine elements along the Santa Barbara waterfront, the Chromatic Gate has seen better days. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)
Showing the wear of exposure to corrosive marine elements along the Santa Barbara waterfront, the Chromatic Gate has seen better days. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

The sculpture will be prepped and the metal surfaces cleaned, sanded and primed. Masking each color bar for painting will follow, and then each piece will painted with highly durable aircraft specialty paint.

The County Arts Commission and the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation and Public Works departments are all behind the effort.

Funding was raised in 2012 through the efforts of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and the Restore Our Rainbow Committee, the Arts Fund Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Beautiful Inc., along with other efforts and donors, the Arts Commission statement said.

The Arts Commission has also established a dedicated maintenance fund for the gate and is developing a maintenance plan and agreement with the Parks & Recreation Department.

An exhibition of Herbert Bayer and his years spent in Santa Barbara is one exhibit at the City Hall Gallery, and a reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. March 7.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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