The Association for Public Art (aPA) plays a leadership role in protecting and preserving Philadelphia’s public art. We provide annual maintenance for many of the city’s sculptures, and through partnerships take on special preservation and advocacy projects as needed.
Outdoor Sculpture Conservation Program
Concern for the condition of Philadelphia’s bronze and stone sculptures led the aPA to initiate a pilot Outdoor Sculpture Conservation Program in 1982, the first of its kind in the nation. With generous support from the Mabel Pew Myrin Trusts, a group of historically and artistically significant sculptures were identified to receive initial conservation treatment by professional conservator Steven Tatti of Tatti Art Conservation: Abraham Lincoln (1871) by Randolph Rogers, Cowboy (1908) by Frederic Remington, and Three Way Piece Number 1: Points (1964) by Henry Moore.
Philadelphia’s outdoor sculptures suffer from both acid rain and airborne chemical pollutants. Because of prevailing wind patterns, Pennsylvania receives some of the highest amounts of acidic precipitation in the nation. Even “durable” materials are no match for acid rain, and require ongoing maintenance in order to arrest further deterioration and improve their aesthetic appearance.
Each spring, aPA works with conservators to conduct annual maintenance on over 30 works throughout the city. The sculptures and their bases are made from a variety of materials, including bronze, weathering steel, wood, limestone, marble, and granite. As each material presents unique maintenance challenges in response to environmental conditions, our conservation team must rely on specialized treatment procedures that respond to the needs of each one.
The aPA’s maintenance procedure is conducted by trained professionals that includes a general condition inspection of the sculpture, the removal of surface grime and graffiti, washing, and the application of a special wax coating for the bronzes. The sculptures are cleaned, protected, and stabilized to protect them from further deterioration and corrosion.
The aPA has continued this annual maintenance program since its initiation in 1982 and is one of the longest continuously operating program of its kind in the country. It has received many awards, including the National 2000 Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections from Heritage Preservation and the American Institute for Conservation, the 2002 Henry J. Magaziner EFAIA Award of the Philadelphia AIA Historic Preservation Committee, the first sculpture conservation grant from the federal Save America’s Treasures program in 2004, and the 2022 Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s Board of Directors Award for Outstanding Stewardship.
Past Preservation Projects
- Extensive conservation treatment to Martin Puryear’s Pavilion in the Trees with the Fairmount Park Conservancy (formerly the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust)
- Initial conservation treatment of Sylvia Shaw Judson’s Mary Dyer with Friends Center and Norton Art Conservation, Inc.
- The fabrication and installation of replacement pieces for Alexander Milne Calder’s Major General George Gordon Meade. Learn more about the special restoration treatment Meade received in May 2013
- Funding from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Save America’s Treasures award, the Getty Foundation, and The Locks Foundation, was raised to treat Louise Nevelson’s corten steel Atmosphere and Environment XII (1970). Working with the Conservation Department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this monumental sculpture received comprehensive treatment from 2005 – 2007, including its complete de-installation, restoration, reinstallation, and a rededication ceremony featuring the artist’s granddaughter, now head of the Nevelson Foundation. Learn more about the conservation of Louise Nevelson’s Atmosphere and Environment XII
- When the famed mural, The Dream Garden by Maxfield Parrish, was threatened with sale and removal, the aPA became actively involved in efforts to secure the artwork in its original location in the Curtis Building. The aPA worked with the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts to represent the public interest in the complex regulatory and legal proceedings to save the mural.
- The aPA also seeks protection for public artworks by supporting their nominations as “historic objects” by the City of Philadelphia Historical Commission. Designations include Walker Hancock’s Pennsylvania Railroad Memorial in 30th Street Station, August Gaul’s Eagle in the former Wanamaker’s Department Store, and Frank Edwin Elwell’s Dickens and Little Nell in Clark Park.