Summer of Love Event Launches Campaign to Restore Sausalito’s Jean Varda Mosaic
The famed Sausalito artist Jean Varda would have been right at home in Marinship Park last Sunday, as he and the Summer of Love were both celebrated with music of the ‘60s, dancing in the sunshine, art, libations, and a huge human peace sign. The good times rolled as The Sausalito Foundation launched their campaign to restore the splendid Varda mosaic that anchors the southwest corner of the park.
Jonathan Westerling of Radio Sausalito took the crowd on a trip through the great rock ‘n’ roll hits of the 1960s. Sounds of the musical icons of 50 years ago—The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and more—brought many hippie-clad dancers to their feet. Others were content to loll in the sun and enjoy picnic fare provided by the Sausalito Lions Club and Drivers Market.
Joe Tate—who has been playing music on the Sausalito waterfront since the Summer of Love—played a set with his current band, The Hippie Voices. Antenna Theater, co-sponsor of the event, displayed its Magic Bus and 1960s paraphernalia, along with a life-size puppet of Varda. Local artists were on hand with displays of their work for sale.
For many in the crowd, the day was their first introduction to the park’s colorful Varda mosaic. Measuring 17 by 13 feet, and encircled by a substantial concrete frame, the mosaic—a scene of fanciful semi-human figures that merge the Mediterranean and cubist elements common to Varda collages and mosaics—is composed of luminous, warm-toned tiles.
The mosaic was commissioned in 1960 for display at the Villa Roma Motel, in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco. Varda’s design was executed by mosaicist Alfonso Pardiñas, who shared Varda’s penchant for integrating decorative elements into architectural designs. In 1982, when the Villa Roma was to be razed, Sausalito art gallery owner Victor di Suvero (and other Sausalito friends of Varda’s) raised funds to save the mosaic from demolition. The 23-ton structure was trucked across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marinship Park and given to the City of Sausalito. Six years later, Friends of the Sausalito Art Festival provided funds for the mosaic’s permanent installation in the park.
The intervening years have taken a toll on the mosaic. On the surface it appears to need only the replacement of some tiles. But the massive concrete structure that frames and supports the tiles is badly deteriorated, as is the rebar that supports the concrete. Restoring them will be the necessary first phase of the project. Then the artistic team, headed by Sausalito mosaicist Pippa Murray, will take over and return the Varda concept to its original splendor. As part of the restoration plan, landscaping and viewing benches will be installed to frame the mosaic.
Sausalito Foundation board member Sonja Hanson, who heads the Varda restoration project, estimates the cost of the project is $45,000. Fundraising is under way, with the expectation of starting work on the project this summer.
Contributions to this project can be made online at the Sausalito Foundation volunteer/donation page—follow the link to the Sausalito Varda/Pardiñas Restoration Project. Or mail contributions to The Sausalito Foundation, Box 567, Sausalito, CA 94965. Be sure to note on your check that it is for the Varda/Pardiñas Project. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization—contributions are tax-deductible.
Special thanks to Mary Hudson for providing copy and photos | post by Jenny Stein