Risk and Retna Secretly Paint a Santa Monica House for Heal the Bay

Shannon Cottrell

In 2008, a deco-style fortress built in the ’50s and originally belonging to a prominent family in Santa Monica fell into foreclosure in the middle of an extensive renovation. Until three months ago it stood vacant, an eerie house on a bluff with a homeless woman squatting the top floor. The terraced gardens in back had overgrown and were infested with rats. The neighbors on this otherwise upscale block wondered and complained.

Then came Adam Corlin, with a cause, a dare, and an endless supply of tarps. Corlin, a successful builder and a fourth generation Santa Monica resident, had his eye on this property, and when the price dropped to 50 percent of its original asking price, he jumped at the opportunity to own it.

But this was no ordinary flip — Corlin had some time in his hacienda rehab schedule and wanted to raise awareness for his favorite charity, Heal the Bay, the environmental group working to restore Santa Monica Bay. In speaking to the organization, he knew it had to be different than the usual donation or doing volunteer work. He had a blank house in Santa Monica, he had resources to do something big, and he had just met a graf artist appropriately named Risk.

Asking one of the West Coast’s most legendary graffiti artists to paint your million dollar house for charity would be a harrowing prospect for most property owners, especially for a property in a secluded neighborhood on the west side. But that’s just the kind of passion that attracted Risk to the project. “Meeting Adam and having him say, ‘You’re an artist, I want to make a difference, let’s go do this,’ that was pretty cool.” says Risk. “Plus, I used to surf all the time. My first graffiti tag was Surf,” he adds. “So I believe in the cause. It’s been awesome. We can do what we like to do, and at the same time we can wake people up to something positive for Heal the Bay.”

At the time of this publication, all work is being done under tarps, so as not to tip off negative parties and attract attention. Instead of painting directly on the four story structure, a series of 142 4-foot by 4-foot panels were constructed, painted and later mounted to extensive scaffolding.

The piece, which stands 40 feet high and about 100 feet across, was also an opportunity for an unprecedented Risk and Retna collaboration. “Retna and I wanted to work together for a long time and this is the perfect project. It holds a lot of meaning for us,” says Risk. “Its cool because it’s a Heal the Bay mural and its not just a typical wave or a dolphin. Its stops you and makes you wonder, ‘what is it?’ Something you have to look into and think about.”

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