Surfing Madonna installs mosaic on Moonlight Beach

A public art piece that took hundreds of participants more than a year to put together is finally viewable at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

The nonprofit Surfing Madonna Oceans Project completed and installed the "Pacific Playground" mosaic, on the newly-constructed $3 million Marine Safety Center, on Jan. 29.

The 7.3-foot-by-15-foot glass artwork colorfully depicts layers of the ocean, from fish and animals below up to land at the top. Hundreds of community members, including current and former city council members, would routinely visit Don Myers Stained Glass in Oceanside to lay down pieces of the mosaic one by one.

The artwork, originally drawn by artist Peggy Sue Zepeda, is meant to be educational, as well as visually stunning, said Bob Nichols, president of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, which donated the mosaic to the city. Nichols said the mosaic was a labor of love for the community for more than a year, with steps such as community vetting, city council meetings and designing the artwork.

The "Pacific Playground" piece cost the nonprofit about $30,000, Nichols estimated.

“This is a long-anticipated display of a wonderful mosaic” he said in a statement released Jan. 30. “Our beach community needs more ocean-related displays of art. It’s important that people see just how fragile yet beautiful our ecosystem is. This mosaic has many educational components. For example, the legend (soon to come) on the side of the piece that will be designed so children and beach-goers of all ages can learn all about the sea life that lives just yards off our shore. We feel if people are educated about our ocean, they will respect and love it more and hopefully become agents of change.”

Nichols envisions the mosaic becoming an iconic landmark that generations can learn from. He said this was the case for the Surfing Madonna's first glass mosaic, called "Save the Ocean," which is on display at the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Highway 101.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear believes the art piece is "another great collaboration" in Encinitas.

"I'm so grateful to the many volunteers and tremendous organizational abilities of the Surfing Madonna organization to get this designed, built and installed," she said.

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