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Arts Programming

Reinforcing our Commitment

Surfing Madonna Oceans Project is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Encinitas, California and was officially formed in 2013 by Robert Nichols and Mark Patterson (artist of the Surfing Madonna mosaic). The specific purpose for forming the nonprofit was to conserve, maintain and promote the public display of art and to promote environmental conservation efforts.

Future projects include partnerships with local arts groups, support for Arts Alive banners, direct awards to local artists, a series of articles in local news outlets promoting the arts, programming events for the public to experience local artists through shows, readings, performances and more.

Arts Programming: What We Do
SMOP save the ocean 22 copy.jpg

2nd Annual "Save the Ocean"
Art & Poetry Exhibit

The judges votes are in and ready for viewing!

The poetry award winners for the show were chosen by judges: Danny Salzhandler board member of Surfing Madonna and Art Director, Robert O’Sullivan Schleith of Poets INC (Inland North County), and local poet Marit Anderson.
We had 24 excellent poems submitted and these were the three selected by our judges for awards.

Arts Programming: Who We Are

Second Annual "Save the Ocean"

Art Award Winners

Show Runs from
October 7 - November 4, 2022
at Escondido Municipal Gallery

Best in Show Overall

Alexander Shakuto “Surfing Sun”.  

First Place - LaRetta Small - “Friends or Foes”.

Best in Theme for Sculpture - Janet Hansen - “Enlighted Rings 5”

Best in Theme for Fine Art - Shawn Bruner - “Shell Fire”

Second Place - Sue De Wulf -  “Couch Surfer”. 

The Third Place - Cherrie LaPorte -  “Moody Sea Blues”.

Honorable Mention artists are:

Darina Baebler for “Blissful Path”  - photography

Dan Pressman for  “Whale Tail on a Wave” digital photography

Ann Chaitin for “Sea Forms” Embossed copper 

Shawn Bruner for  “Hatch Kelp” photography

Dirk Harman for “Cove Morning” oil painting

Darlene Katz “Hang 10” oil painting

Arts Programming: HTML Embed

Scroll to View Selected Artists
in Second Annual "Save the Ocean" Exhibit

This year there were 169 compelling ocean themed submissions, and of those, 71 were chosen for inclusion in the show that will be on exhibit at the Escondido Municipal Gallery from October 7 - November 4. The mediums juried into the show varied from traditional painting, to digital photography, marquetry wood working, ceramic sculpture, fabric artworks, mixed media, photography and mosaic. The show was judged by Surfing Madonna board members; Mike Redman - President, Cheryl Ehlers - Program Administrator  and Cathy Carey - Executive Director. “We were so amazed at the quality of the work and large number of entrants, that we added two extra awards for “Best in Show - Theme for Fine Art and Sculpture in addition to overall Best in Show. This way we could put a special focus on who did something unique and wonderful with the theme, and which piece stood out overall that we wanted to represent our organization this year.”

Arts Programming: HTML Embed

"Inspirations" Art Reception

Awards Ceremony April 1, 2022

Arts Programming: Portfolio

Surfing Madonna presents:
at La Playa Gallery
in La Jolla, CA

April 1 - April 29, 2022 

Reception Friday April 1, 2022  from 6 - 8pm

Awards Ceremony at 6:30pm

Congratulations to the “Inspirations” award winners!

Click image in slide show for artist and award:

Best in Show Juan Flores “Green Houses, Del Mar, CA”

First Place - Kelley Sutphin for “Jellyfish Dreams”

Second Place - Mac Hillenbrand for “Torrey Pines”

Third Place - Sue De Wulf  for “Chilly Day At the Beach”

Honorable Mentions

Carol Mansfield for “The Aquarium”

April Leffingwell for “Inspired” by the Surfing Madonna”

Cheryl Tall  for “Villa of the Bees”

Jordan Lee for “Poseidon’s Garden”

Juried by Cathy Carey

and Vaughn Woods 

Green Houses, Del Mar, CA by Juan Flores.jpg
Jellyfish Dreams by Kelley Sutphin.jpg
Torrey Pines by Mac Hillenbrand.jpg
Chilly Day At the Beach by Sue De Wulf.jpg
The Aquarium by Carol Mansfield.jpg
"Inspired" by the Surfing Madonna by April Leffingwell.jpg
Villa of the Bees by Cheryl Tall.jpg
Poseidon's Garden by Jordan Lee.jpg
Arts Programming: About Us

Art Show


What inspires you? The artists in this show share with us what motivates them, what gets their creative juices flowing, and what they want to share with the world!

Surfing Madonna Oceans Project wants to help support La Playa Gallery in finding new artists to represent, and to encourage the community to view art with inspired arts programming. We seek to recognize, showcase and motivate artists to achieve their best possible outcome by showing and selling their work in great galleries.

Arts Programming: HTML Embed

"Save the Ocean" Art Show at Escondido Municipal Gallery October 2021

62 Artists from California were juried into this important show with 13 awards presented

Arts Programming: Portfolio

Surfing Madonna Oceans Project

"Save the Ocean" Art Show 2021

We had an incredible variety of excellent artwork submitted for this show! Over 160 pieces. It was a tough job to whittle it down to these 62 juried in artworks.
Enjoy this online gallery!
Please join us in celebrating these artists at the Reception October 9th from 4 - 7pm.
Awards Ceremony at 5:30pm.

Arts Programming: HTML Embed

Fundraiser and Concert

Music by The Hot Club Combo
Photo by Stephen Simpson

Doug David and Matt Alverson, front, listen as Hot Club Combo play Django Reinhardt music for David, a quadriplegic and veteran who has not been able to socialize or see his favorite bands play live during the pandemic, was gifted with a fundraising event Dec. 20, by the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project. The Hot Club Combo includes, from left, Rick Barlow on violin, Kevin Roberts on drums, Steve Greim on guitar, Patrick Berrogain on guitar and Eileen Apfel on stand-up bass. Surfing Madonna hired the band and gave a donation to David, while friends donated almost $1,400. To contribute to Doug David, go to Put “For Doug David” in the notes section of PayPal.

Coast News Article

January 10, 2022

Coast News Article January 10, 2022

SMOP fundraiser for Doug David 2.jpg
Arts Programming: About

Award Winner of the Surfing Madonna $200 cash prize -

Henry Strause, for his Jewelry Box

January 8 - February 25 2022 at the Escondido Municipal Gallery

Surfing Madonna also Sponsored $200 Towards the Production of the Show

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Arts Programming: Quote
Steve Denyes 2.JPG

Surfing Madonna Local Artists Award Winner -
Musician Steve Denyes

"Winter Songs" 

Live Streamed concert on Facebook

December 21, 2020

For roughly 30 years, San Diego resident Steve Denyes has stolen the hearts of children and adults alike with his catchy, upbeat tunes. In fact, the musician behind the popular Hullabaloo band, was playing roughly 300 shows a year before the novel coronavirus made its way to the U.S.

This year, Denyes is playing one virtual show a month and a “couple of socially-distanced house concerts.”

“COVID has turned everything upside down for me professionally,” said Denyes, who said one of his biggest inspirations is children’s performer Dan Zanes. “It’s difficult financially, of course, but, more than anything, I miss the daily connection I used to have with people all over the county. I know it’ll come back eventually but I miss the interaction with the families I’ve been singing with for years.”

Despite the hardships, Denyes said musicians will find a way to overcome the current challenges facing the entertainment industry.

Surfing Madonna wanted to extend Steve a helping hand, and the feedback from this concert was that his upbeat show helped a lot of people feel better at a very difficult time. That's what the arts do for us, and at Surfing Madonna we want to keep inviting the community to explore our incredibly talented local community of creative people. 

Arts Programming: About Us

Surfing Madonna Local Artists Award Winner - David Reed

"Uphill and Into the Wind"

Autobiography of a cross country bike trip in the mid 70's

“Surfing Madonna Oceans Project is a community arts organization. We want to support local authors and artists, especially now, with that group being economically impacted so harshly by the pandemic. By hosting a reading of David’s book, and distributing books, we want to call attention to a bright light in our community and applaud his creative effort. The book is a wonderful showcase of being awake and alive in nature and being inspired by the renewal of energy everyone can find there. Part of our mission is to bring awareness to the environment, to help people establish links to enjoying the outdoors.”

Today David Reed is an award-winning San Diego landscape architect. He has spent a lifetime studying the natural world, inspired from his youth in the woods, his University training, his apprenticeship as a stonemason, his travels on a bicycle, and his designs on the land. He re-designed four major gardens in San Diego’s jewel, Balboa Park.

Arts Programming: About Us

Book Reading at Madonna Park

As part of the award Surfing Madonna purchased a number of books for local distribution through the Little Free Library at Surfing Madonna Park, located at Leucadia Pizzeria and the intersection of Highway 101 and Encinitas boulevard.

Surfing Madonna will also be hosting David Reed for an author reading at Surfing Madonna Park on Saturday November 7 from 2 to 4pm.  Due to social distancing protocols, this is not open to the public, but will be videotaped and viewable online at

An additional enjoyment of the book can be had by checking out the QR code on the book at his website. Long before the cell phone, Reed carried fifteen pounds of camera gear to document his trip. He has nearly 170 color photos, keyed to the story, and maps, which can be seen there in addition to the video of the book reading at Surfing Madonna Park. 

The story takes place in 1973, with the U. S. and the White House in turmoil, and David Reed wants out. He leaves everything he knows to cross the United States with little more than his bicycle and camera. He embarks on his bike and hike odyssey from the Garden State to the Golden Gate recounting a journey that spans 5,420 miles, eleven crossings of the Continental Divide and two months hiking in the great National Parks.

Arts Programming: About Us

Kevin Anderson, Encinitas Artist

Beautiful underwater seascape mural at Surfing Madonna Park

You've seen his work all over Encinitas, Solana Beach and North County San Diego! Surfing Madonna commissioned Kevin to paint a utility box below the mosaic. Completed in 2019,  it is a beloved addition to the mosaic artwork and Surfing Madonna Park!

Arts Programming: About Us

Water Safety
Coloring Books

Working Towards a Brighter Future

We believe that when people are able to enjoy the ocean, they are more likely to want to protect it. It’s also important that people enjoy the ocean safely. Towards that aim, we support an incredible program at the YMCA that teaches youth with special needs how to swim.  We have also created a Water Safety Coloring book and complimentary curriculum that is offered free of charge to local elementary schools. Everyone should have the ability to enjoy the ocean safely, and these efforts support that
To date, we have donated $36,000 to the Paul Ecke YMCA Aquatic Programs for Children with Special Needs. In addition to teaching participants to swim, this program gives them opportunities to create friendships, gain a sense of independence, build confidence, strengthen weak muscles, improve body in space awareness, and more. We are proud to partner with the YMCA and support this life-changing program.
The Surfing Madonna Ocean’s Project Water Safety Coloring Books were created with collaborative efforts by the Encinitas Life Saving Association, Artist Kyle Bowen, and our local life guards. The purpose of the book is to teach kids about ocean and pool safety, as well as marine life, and the importance of keeping our beaches and oceans clean and protected. There is also complimentary curriculum focused on water safety, marine life and ocean stewardship. Surfing Madonna team members and volunteers visit local classrooms and present this curriculum along with the book. In the US the second leading cause of death for children under 14 is drowning. We are fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of beaches and pools, but with that good fortune comes an increase in our risk. This book is a tool to help us create more ocean advocates, and more importantly, to keep them safe.

Arts Programming: Welcome

Ocean Life Mosaic

Recently unveiled, this magnificent 8ft by 15ft seamless glass mosaic depicting our local marine habitat complete with kelp, stingrays, porpoises, sea lions and more has become an instant iconic landmark for Encinitas! This gorgeous piece of art is on display on the new Marine Safety Center at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

“This is a long awaited piece of art” said Bob Nichols, President of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project. “Our beach community needs more ocean art. This mosaic will have a legend on the side, so children and beach goers of all ages can learn all about what sea life lives just yards off of our shore. We feel if people are educated about our ocean, they will respect and love it more.”

Arts Programming: Who We Are

Pictured below are the community helpers learning to make a mosaic!

The concept was developed by President Robert Nichols.

The Creative Illustrator was Peggy Sue Zepeda, the mosaic was constructed by Don Myers Stained Glass shop in Oceanside and the 100+ volunteers in the community helped cut, shape and glue the glass down.

Don Myers invited the community to come out and help with the creation of the mosaic! 

Arts Programming: Portfolio

Second Annual "Save the Ocean" Poetry Awards

First Place - The Surfing Madonna

By Steve McDonald

She is fearless, this Lady of Guadalupe, the wave
at her back rising to break over her head 
as if she will shoot the curl, the railway bridge
a perfect frame for the ten-foot-by-ten-foot glass mosaic
that appeared one day as if out of nowhere, 
a barrel of blue water about to encase this gentle Virgin, 
her eyes wide open, lips a slight, closed smile, hands 
together as if in prayer, her reddish-orange gown 
modestly draped from collar to ankle, her cloak 
green hooded, gold fringed, blown forward and around 
and back and forward again as if it were a cresting wave 
and alive, and what fourteen-year-old boy or girl 
who had ever surfed or dreamed of surfing Swamis 
or Windansea or Rincon or Malibu would fail to smile, 
to feel comforted by this cool mom riding this white surfboard 
goofy-footedright foot forward, left backits red stringer 
and rails, black booties on her feet, and at her back 
haloed streams of golden foil, and what old dude 
with his longboard would fail to notice the slender arc 
of the moon at the Virgins feet, the angel holding it 
in his arms and the red roses spread like a banner 
across the surfboard and then somehow spilling 
into the blue of the searoses are spilling into the sea, 
riding the swell up and over this Savior of the Ocean,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, this Surfing Madonna.

Arts Programming: Text

Second Place - 

What One Person Can Do 

By Jim Babwe

Plant comfortable shoes or perfect boots
on solid ground or steady rock.
Stand high on some secure boulder.
Eventually, wind and water 
reduce reliable surfaces to sand.
Jump forward in time.
Stand ankle deep in the Pacific
or Atlantic or any ocean you choose.
Patient, persistent water 
rushes around your feet,
stealing balance, compelling you 
to step left and right 
and forward and backward -- 
whichever way 
tides and currents move.
To retain balance,
we have no choice 
but to yield
to more powerful, 
infinitely patient force,
a force more powerful and patient
than us.
Convince yourself
you control the ocean,
but it’s the ocean
which controls you.
Whoever said,
“If you want to make God laugh,
tell him your plans,”
knew it’s better to have faith
in something larger than yourself,
larger than the ocean,
so lifting a single piece of paper
to remove it from the water
becomes a demonstration
of respect for a larger power
which will endure longer 
than every single one 
of us.

Arts Programming: Text

Third Place - 

The Big Blue Top

By Katie Kemple

A hawk hangs out on the streetlamp at sunset. 
He’s an eagle of the ocean, a tanned lifeguard 
on his golden throne of glory. Ready to swoop 
down on his pick. The chicks at the taco shop 
ruffle their feathers out. Do you remember 
feathered bangs, back in the 80s? Aerosol clouds 
froze our hair into waves and we learned 
the phrase: ozone layer. Everyone gave up 
hairspray, as if that one righteous trick 
could close the gap alone. No. A circus tent 
pole rose. All of us in a balancing act, 
never bothering to look back. I sit here 
decades later beneath the big blue umbrella, 
ever more a performer to an illogical ring master. 
My hair has silver glints. On my ears, hoops 
for tricks. I make plastic cups and forks dance. 
We pretend not to know how this act ends.  
The shore creeping up on us more each year. 
That whip, the sting of eternity. Our collective 
efforts to tame the earth, come up lame 
of course. The ocean gains on us, her costume 
glistens. Her mane, salt licked. Her roar 
deafening. She doesn’t need a straw to finish us off.

Arts Programming: Text
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