Painting conservators have started to save Jamestown's cultural heritage.
On Tuesday, Andrea Chevalier, senior paintings conservator, and Wendy Partridge, paintings conservator, from the Intermuseum Conservation Association of Cleveland, Ohio, started removing the late David L. Lawrence's mural from the James Prendergast Library wall above the former microfilm room.
Partridge said the work should be done by Thursday. On Tuesday, they started by removing surface grime that had built-up on the painting since it was glued to the wall in the 1960s. Partridge said the conservators will also find areas where there is insecure paint to protect. She said because no lead adhesive was used in attaching the mural to the wall, the removal will be easier.
From left, Wendy Partridge, Intermuseum Conservation Association paintings conservator, and Andrea Chevalier, Intermuseum Conservation Association senior paintings conservator, are pictured starting work to remove the David L. Lawrence mural from the wall at the James Prendergast Library. The library is undergoing a renovation project to install handicapped accessible/family restrooms and renovate upstairs storage space for future programming. The mural is adhered to the wall in an area that will be converted into public space during the renovation project.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips
''The adhesive seems pretty brittle,'' she said.
She said they will use sharpened putty knives and a tool she coined as a ''specialized hamburger spatula'' to start removing the mural from the wall. They will then roll the artwork onto a giant tube to remove from the wall. Then they will roll the painting onto the floor that has been cleared for the conservators. Partridge said that is the plan for the next couple days, but they will see what happens.
''We have to improvise as things come up,'' she said. ''We will see various things as we move forward.''
Partridge said the conservators have removed numerous paintings similar to the project taking place at the library. She said murals from the 1920s through the 1980s have been removed by Intermuseum Conservation Association conservators. They have removed murals in Columbus, Dayton and Cleveland, to name a few locations. She said the age of the mural doesn't matter in the removal process. She also said the mural on the library's wall is a pretty standard size, but they have removed larger pieces of art.
Partridge said she enjoys the work because she gets to spend a lot of time with artwork. She has been a conservator for 12 years with the Intermuseum Conservation Association, working with art since the early 1980s. Chevalier has been with the association for 18 years and worked with art since the mid-1980s.
''This is a part of a shared cultural heritage,'' Partridge said. ''It connects people with the past.''
Intermuseum Art Conservation, also known as the ICA, was the nation's first nonprofit regional art conservation center. The organization was founded in 1952 by the directors of six major Midwestern museums to provide professional, high quality and cost effective art conservation services. The ICA was the model used by the National Endowment for the Arts, when it began dispersing start-up funding to create a network of similar centers across the United States in 1971.
Today, the ICA offers a range of services to its membership, as well as to nonmember collecting organizations, governmental agencies, corporations and the general public. These services include laboratory and onsite conservation, climate-controlled storage, custom crate building and display work, surveys and inspections, studio-quality photo documentation, educational programming, disaster assistance, grant collaboration and publications for both a professional and general audience.
This week, the first phase of a construction project will create Americans with Disabilities Act compliant restrooms for men and women on the first floor, turn second-floor storage space into a new community room and create a teen space above the front entrance. Without adding on, the project will add more than 1,800 square feet of public space to the library and make it more user-friendly at the same time.
One of the two Lawrence murals at the library is in area where renovation work will be done and needed to be removed. In April, a fund was set up through the library's website prendergastlibrary.org to raise money to remove the mural. It was projected that $8,000 to $10,000 needed to be raised to remove the mural. Close to $11,000 was raised to remove the artwork from the library's wall.
Even though there are two Lawrence murals at the library, only one is in a section that will be renovated this year. The mural is located at the front of the library, along a sidewall to the right of the entrance area if you are walking into the library. The other mural is located to the left in the children's room. The children's room mural also needs to be removed, but construction will not be done to that section of the library this year.