California's newly redesigned "Whale Tail" license plate was unveiled Tuesday morning at a press event on the . But while California Coastal Commission representatives and city dignitaries were all smiles, at least one organization wasn't pleased.
The new design was prompted after the artist who created the original asked for a 20 percent royalty from sales of the plates, according to the CCC. But a foundation created by the artist, "Wyland," reached out to Santa Monica Patch to say that's untrue.
"[Our] side of the story seems to be continually overshadowed by the Coastal Commission PR machine," said Steve Creech, a representative for the nonprofit Wyland Foundation.
The foundation, incepted by Wyland in 1993, promotes environmentalism through public-art and education programs, and community events. According to Creech, Wyland wasn't asking the commission for royalties from sales of the plates for himself. Instead, he was asking for proceeds to help fund his foundation's efforts.
"After nearly 20 years of loaning the image to the state of California, Wyland asked the coastal commission [for] Whale Tail proceeds to help fund environmental education programs through his Wyland Foundation on an ongoing basis," Creech said.
"These were exactly the type of programs the Whale Tail plate was designed to fund," he continued. "We know the state of California is suffering from numerous environmental problems—rampant overdevelopment along our coast, non-point pollution, etc.—and are working to raise awareness about those problems."
California rolled out Wyland's Whale Tail license plate in 1997. Over the past 14 years, 200,000 Whale Tail plates have been sold in California, drumming up $60.2 million for coastal conservation and environmental efforts. The money has also been used to fund 433 Whale Tail grants, which go to programs implemented in every coastal county in the state.
"Wyland had loaned this image to the coastal commission to benefit millions of people throughout the state," Creech said.
In 2008, when the economy collapsed, Wyland "was doing what any responsible foundation president was doing in a downturn—he was looking for ways to continue his foundation's environmental outreach programs during a particularly tough economic period," Creech said.
In his comments to Santa Monica Patch, Creech said some are criticizing the design of the new Whale Tail plate. It was created by painter Elizabeth Robinette Tyndall of Bethel Island and graphic designer Bill Atkins of Laguna Beach, both of whom won a related design contest.
"Whether we, like many others, think the new image is a poor imitation of a Wyland artwork is beside the point," Creech said.
Despite the Wyland Foundation's displeasure with the CCC and the new plate, Creech said the artist is still "grateful" for having been involved in the Whale Tail initiative.
"In keeping with his conservation mission, Wyland is grateful that the artwork that he loaned to the Whale Tail plate program for almost 20 years has been able to provide assistance to so many worthwhile environmental organizations throughout California," Creech said.
On July 12, the CCC issued a genial statement toward Wyland, giving him a Declaration of Appreciation.
“While we are grateful to Wyland for his donation over many years, we opted to retire the plate,” CCC Executive Director Peter Douglas said. “This presented an exciting opportunity to freshen the look of the license plate, inspire new interest, and get the public involved.”