Future of Surfing Madonna up in the air

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ENCINITAS, Calif. -- The charity that owns the Surfing Madonna mosaic, one of the most recognizable pieces of art in North County, appears to be severing ties with the city of Encinitas.

It comes after the city declined to permit the Surfing Madonna Foundation's fundraising run, following what it called "aggressive" behavior from one of the foundation's board members.

In a city staff report recommending to rescind the permit for the Surfing Madonna 5K, staffers reported Bob Nichols displayed a “uncooperative, demanding, harassing and aggressive" behavior with lifeguards and other city staff members, calling the relationship "unworkable." Nichols says he never shouted or yelled at anyone but did have disagreements with staff members relating to being over-billed.

Now the request to have the run reinstated by Nichols has been withdrawn. The mosaic of the Madonna, with her hands clasped and sitting in the pocket of an overhead wave, delicately portrayed in shards of glass, may be leaving its current home, according to Nichols. Nichols and the artist who originally put the project together are mulling the idea of taking the mosaic to a town where they “will feel at home.” 

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear says she hopes the iconic mosaic stays, adding that residents have embraced the piece of art as part of the city. City officials say the charity runs will likely continue, but as city-sponsored events.

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