MOBILE, Ala. – Last month, the Mobile Museum of Art completed repairs on two outdoor collection pieces: Tom A. Telhiard’s Wind Waltz (1990) on the Vaughan Morrisette Art Trail in Langan Park and Bruce Larsen’s Transformation (2002) located at the Mobile Botanical Gardens.
“Using resources for the care of a museum’s art is as important as using funds for acquisitions,” MMofA Director Deborah Velders says. “This is a stewardship responsibility we take seriously. It is expensive to engage conservators to examine and restore our works, but we have a duty to do so.”
The museum received help for repairs on Wind Waltz and Transformation from the artists who created the works since they live in the area. Larsen was on site at the Mobile Botanical Gardens and was able to assist and guide the work performed by museum staff. A 60-foot boom lift, provided by the City of Mobile, was used to access all 360-feet of the sculpture. After repairs were made, the entire piece was coated with a special blend of linseed oil, as recommended by Susie Anders, an art conservator based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In the summer of 2021, Anders surveyed all of the Museum’s outdoor sculptures. She wrote reports, advising staff about which products and procedures to use to refresh and maintain our sculpture. From that list, the MMofA Art Logistics team created a maintenance schedule, made repairs that the staff was capable of making and scheduled outside expertise, as needed.
As per Anders’s advice, Wind Waltz was de-installed from its site at the intersection of Spring Hill Avenue and Pfc. John O. New Drive since the piece was badly faded and suffering paint loss. After de-installation, the sculpture was taken to a paint shop specializing in the application of durable marine paint, which is known for its vibrancy and longevity. Telhiard selected the correct paint so that each panel would match the original design of the sculpture. After six months, Wind Waltz was painted, sealed and reinstalled, with Telhiard on hand to oversee the re-installation.
Because of the expertise of conservator Anders and the skill and labor of the Museum’s Art Logistics team, Transformation and Wind Waltz have been revived. “Conservation of our collection is critical to the Museum’s sustainability,” says Director Velders. “It’s not so very different than the maintenance of our city’s roads and infrastructure. If we want future generations of Mobilians and guests to enjoy what we have, we must invest in its care.“
The Museum is always grateful for the support it receives from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the City of Mobile with special thanks to the City’s Facility Maintenance Department for use of its boom lift for these projects.