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Atascadero monolith creators replace stolen art

Wade McKenzie
The artists behind the nearly ten-foot-high, 200 pound monolith came forward.

Monoliths are popping up around the world, and while some are still a mystery, local artists behind one that recently appeared in Atascadero are speaking out.

In the movie “2001 Space Odyssey,” three metal monoliths created by an unseen extraterrestrial species are discovered by humanity. When similar monoliths showed up in Utah and Romania, SLO County locals Travis Kenny and Wade McKenzie had an idea. 

“We were at lunch and and I’m like ‘hey, there’s going to be a third one, there needs to be third one,'" Kenny said. "So we said ‘hey, let's build a third one.'”

The two have been friends since childhood, growing up in North County. McKenzie is a welder and Kenny builds cars. But four artists all together worked on the project; joining them was Randall Kenny and Jared Riddle.

The group decided to put it on top of Pine Mountain in Atascadero. 

“The first one took the three of us carrying it, and another one carrying the gear and tools," McKenzie said. "It was probably two hundred pounds, which doesn’t sound very heavy.”

“But on this hike it was,” Kenny said. 

The next day it was discovered, and hundreds of people hiked up to see the mysterious object. The artists were nearby, watching people and talking to them, but never saying they were the ones behind it. 

“Our plan originally was to pull it down in a couple days," Kenny said. "Or we figured some Cal Poly frat boys would steal itm and then it would disappear and the mystery would still be there, that all three disseappared.”

But overnight, a group of men from out of town filmed themselves destroying the monolith and erecting a cross in its place, sparking an outcry from the community. 

“People's negativity just runs rampant," McKenzie said. "I just don’t understand people.”

So, the artists have built another one. Within days, the four friends had it atop Pine Mountain, this time secured with heavy-duty cement. They also decided to go public as the creators so people knows they are professionals who built the monolith safely.

“We got a website, Atascaderomonolith.com," Kenny said. "Our goal is to do some stuff with it and we are going to give a portion of the proceeds to our city. We've already talked to the mayor, to maintain trails. It doesn’t seem like you ever have enough money for that type of stuff.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.