Restoration in the works

MLK memorial awaits better weather for needed refurbishing.
Friday, February 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:06 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

At the entrance of the MKT trail near Stadium Boulevard stands the second-largest memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., erected in 1993 as a reminder of his universal teachings for the hearts and minds of future generations.

Since its creation, the outdoor memorial has had to cope with the unmerciful effects of the elements.

Rain and groundwater have damaged the blue tiles created by Barbara Grygutis, an artist from Tucson, Ariz. As time passed, crystal deposits thickened and formed an opaque layer. Moreover, the caulk has deteriorated in the joints between the granite steps.

Touch-ups delayed by weather

The long-awaited restoration of the memorial will begin in earnest as soon as the weather permits.

Leigh Nutter, coordinator of the Office of Volunteer Services, said the work started a couple of weeks ago, “but had to be interrupted due to the current weather conditions, and probably will have to wait for another couple of months, until spring.”

The first step is to replace the damaged tiles with a new material, which requires dry weather.

“We are working with the artist to figure out if there is need for new material or if we can use the previous one without altering its composition,” said Marie Hunter, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs. “Anyway, the tiles will need to be produced, since we don’t have any from the previous stock.”

To determine whether the material needs to be modified, a section of the memorial will be closed and set aside for testing purposes.

The cultural affairs commission wants to make sure that the new material is suitable for the weather and terrain and that it will stay in place, Hunter said. “There is a combination of different problems, which makes it difficult to come up with a unique solution, but the goal is to keep on working with Grygutis so that the response to the situation can be according to her view of the work of art. She has been notified of the restoration and will be consulted.”

Federal grant will aid restoration

At the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration on Jan. 14, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond announced a $100,000 grant for the restoration from the Department of Interior’s “Save America’s Treasures.” In addition, $96,000 has been raised in donations.

The estimated cost of the restoration is $55,000 to $80,000. “It is very hard to pinpoint a precise cost from this very broad range since the Memorial is such a unique piece of work,” Nutter said. “Our goal would be to conclude the restoration process by August 2005 for two reasons: First of all, it will be the anniversary of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and it will also be 12 years from the memorial dedication.”

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