The mystery of the “Surfing Madonna” mosaic mural in coastal North County has quickly unraveled.

Last week art conservators from Los Angeles came down on the city of Encinitas’s dime to see how the contraband mural, which went up suddenly on a train bridge one day in April, could be removed without being destroyed. They found it was affixed more securely than they thought. (Union-Tribune)

At the top of the mosaic, hidden from street view, they also found letters that read “ARK PATTERSON.” So it wasn’t long before a Leucadia artist named Mark Patterson stepped forward Wednesday, sending a letter through an attorney to the city, which has deemed the piece illegal and said it must come down, offering to help remove it. He also spoke publicly about his vision for the piece, to remind all who see it to work to save the ocean.

Fox 5 caught up with Patterson first, posting a nearly 20-minute interview with him to their website Wednesday night. Patterson went to Italy to learn mosaics last fall, quit his job to make his piece in October when he asked himself if his tech job was really how he wanted to spend his time, the U-T’s Jonathan Horn learned.

From Horn’s story:

“And that answer came back, no,” Patterson said. “I was being paid to do something that I was good at, but I wasn’t particularly in love with.”

It took Patterson nine months to build the mosaic. Some days he would work 15 minutes, and others into the wee hours of the morning. He said he would only work when he was inspired. It would come out poorly otherwise. More than a thousand dollars later, the piece is, unintentionally, famous.

I asked: “What do you think the city of Encinitas should do?” Readers mostly agreed in comments on our post, on our Facebook and on Twitter that the city should treat the artwork as a gift, not illegal graffiti. What do you think? Tell us.

The artist also stopped by KPBS on Monday to chat about what might come next for the mural, which reportedly attracted a flash mob of supporters in veils to symbolize the Virgin Mary this weekend.

You’re reading the Arts Report, our weekly compilation of the region’s arts and culture news.

On and Offstage

• A Clairemont High graduate, Casey Nicholaw, snagged a best-director Tony Award for his work on “The Book of Mormon.” (U-T)

• When the veteran Starlight Musical Theatre didn’t release a schedule for summer plays earlier this year, it seemed as though the long-embattled company “might not return for its 65th year,” writes Pam Kragen. But a former board member says Starlight will present a “modified” season this summer. (North County Times)

• The guy in town to direct The Old Globe’s Shakespeare festival this summer thinks you’re smart: “[Adrian] Noble said the intelligence of San Diego’s theater audience helped him select more challenging work this time around.” (NCT) And he’ll be using a dozen “talented and eager” students from the University of San Diego graduate theater program. (U-T)

• The LA Times’ theater critic, Charles McNulty, reflects on the role that regional theater plays in the U.S. theater system. He invokes two local regional theaters: “San Diego’s Old Globe has a penchant for wobbly commercial musicals … and La Jolla Playhouse has yet to define its post-Des McAnuff identity,” he says.

“Like so much else in our culture, the nonprofit theater has been on a downsizing and corporatizing trend,” McNulty writes.

Organs and Pizza

• U-T readers wrote letters of support for the city’s organist, Carol Williams, whose salary has been under contentious discussion at the city. That handful of support letters published this weekend inflamed another reader, who wrote in today’s letter section that the salary is an “unnecessary expenditure.” (U-T)

• Wayne and Cheryl Seppala met when they were 7 and 9 around the same music store. After 34 years of marriage, and 33 years owning their own organ store on El Cajon Boulevard, they’re still playing duets. I checked out their rehearsal on a 1920s-era Wurlitzer theater organ in Spring Valley last week and included some of that booming sound in this television clip, our Behind the Scene TV segment with NBC San Diego.

When the Seppalas were teenagers, they lent their talents to the organ at Organ Power Pizza, an old San Diego staple where you could order a pie and listen to the pipes. We dug up this 1970s TV commercial for the restaurant that included this gem: “When you say music and pizza, that means party!”

Intersections, Art and Otherwise

• We have the six videos up of our presentations from the local arts mavens who shared their insights and images with us in our “Meeting of the Minds” event. It’s just like you were there (or get to go again) — pass along this handy index to any of your pals who couldn’t make it.

• A pair that met at UCLA wants to change the consumeristic view of the crafts market where people hawk their wares to cars waiting to cross the border at the San Ysidro crossing. They’re “taking over three of its abandoned storefronts and, for two days, transforming them into bona-fide art galleries housing border-specific photography, mixed-media and installation works,” calling their effort an “artistic intervention.” (CityBeat)

• The U-T’s longtime critic-at-large, Welton Jones, issues his appraisal of the planning hullabaloo at Balboa Park, calling on the disparate sides of the debate to work together, like the first city leaders did in creating the park itself in 1915.

And’s Scott Lewis talked to City Councilman Todd Gloria, whose zest for Irwin Jacobs’ plan to redirect traffic from the park’s front plaza has faded over the last 10 months.

• The San Diego Women’s Foundation passed the $2 million mark of donations with its gifts this year to arts and culture organizations. (U-T)

• Coronado’s “elegant old Art Deco-style movie house” will reopen in a couple of weeks. (LA Times)

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Kelly Bennett is the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach her directly at or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with her on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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