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Rainbow Sculpture Restoration Slips Till After New Year

Faded and rusting, iconic Chromatic Gate is now bedeviled by search for paint and bureaucratic hurdles

As it turns out, putting the sparkle back in a rainbow is easier said than done.

Over the summer, more than $89,000 was raised to refurbish the Chromatic Gate sculpture near Santa Barbara’s waterfront, and organizers said at the time they hoped to get the work done this fall.

But as fall edges into winter, the project has been slowed by details ranging from matching the paint colors to navigating government bureaucracies.

“We are looking at the beginning of the new year to restore the sculpture,” said Ginny Brush, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.

The Chromatic Gate, designed by renowned artist Herbert Bayer, stands on city-owned land at Cabrillo Boulevard and Calle Puerto Vallarta, in front of Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

The decision to place it there was controversial at the time, with critics asserting that the sculpture would not fit in with Santa Barbara’s Spanish-influenced architecture.

But eventually the hub-bub died down, and the Chromatic Gate has become a part of the landscape and the occasional wedding portrait.

“This money will certainly cover the cost of the restoration,” Brush said of the funds that were raised. “But the goal is to also set aside an endowment for future annual maintenance costs.”

Having stood since 1991, the rainbow-colored metal sculpture has been degraded by exposure to sun, salt air and the elements in general.

Rusting and fading are quite noticeable, and without refurbishing will only get worse.

The work to restore the sculpture, expected to take about two weeks, involves taking the gate down to bare steel, fixing any problems, and repainting.

Brush noted that restoring the sculpture has turned into a tedious job.

“The paints that were originally used no longer meet environmental standards, and we’re having to find someone to match the colors,” she said. “The colors are very specific. That is just part of it.

“Then it’s navigating how the city and the county departments work together with the private contractors.

“Before we begin this (refurbishment) we have to have an agreement between the city and county to determine a maintenance schedule as to when the yearly inspections will take place,” she added.

A trust fund was established to maintain the sculpture when it was installed, but that money has been spent.

“It cost around $11,000 to get it painted in the spring of 2001, and that depleted the funds,” Brush said.

Standing at 21 feet and weighing 12.5 tons, the Chromatic Gate is intended to pay tribute to art and artists who make Santa Barbara so special.

Bayer, who died in 1985 at age 85, was a painter and sculptor and he studied under such reputable modern artists as Wassily Kandinsky. He lived in Montecito for the last 10 years of his life.

Noozhawk intern Cassidy Flynn 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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