Older artworks need restoration

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:26 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Restoration of the Gentry and Howard buildings on Broadway has ignited discussions about the maintenance of city-owned art.

There is talk to set aside part of the building-restoration costs and use the money to maintain some existing art.

“There have been maintenance issues in the past because art has been so costly to repair,” said Nancy Burdick, a member of the Committee on Public Art and Commission on Cultural Affairs. “We want to make sure that there is a maintenance budget to care for public art.”

Two such works are the Statue of Liberty replica that is installed on the Broadway front of the Gentry Building, and a series of murals in the Municipal courtroom of the Howard building. The Boy Scouts in Columbia donated the small-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty in 1950. The courtroom murals date to the 1930s.

“They are works of art that are not well known in the community but are still important,” said Randy Gray, the volunteer chairman for the Committee on Public Art. “The sculpture might be covered, and people do not often walk to the second floor of the Howard building. Other pieces of art are in places where they can be viewed on a daily basis.”

Marie Hunter, the manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said the restoration of the Gentry and Howard buildings allows the perfect opportunity to maintain existing works of art.

“The Standing Committee on Public Art and the Commission on Cultural Affairs regularly deals with new works of art,” she said. “It is important we look at older works of art and handle them in the same way we deal with the newer works.”

The Statue of Liberty replica project was part of the Boy Scouts national 40th anniversary celebration. The theme of the celebration was “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty.” There are more than 200 of these replicas throughout the country, including more than 15 in Missouri. The copper statues were manufactured by Friedley Voshardt Co. are about 8½ feet tall without the base and weigh 290 pounds. Each statue originally cost $350 plus freight.

Kenneth Hudson, a professor at MU, was commissioned by the City Council to paint the courtroom murals in 1933. The murals consist of 12 panels, and the paintings relate to the history of Columbia. The first panel was completed in 1934 and the last in 1938.

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