50 Years, 50 Stories

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Published Dec. 21, 2010 in The Ledger Independent

A team of art experts has arrived in Maysville to evaluate the damage to the Cox Building’s artwork, as restoration work continues on the building which was heavily damaged by fire on Nov. 9.

City Engineer Sam Baker met with Bob O’Connell of O’Connell International Arts and Oppenheimer Art Recovery Director of Conservation Jennifer Tobits and Conservator Geoff Smalley Monday to begin the evaluation of what elements of the building are classified as art for the reconstruction/restoration project.

O’Connell International Arts and Oppenheimer Art Recovery have been hired by Traveler’s Insurance, who holds the insurance policy on the building, for the project.

“They (Traveler’s) have brought in people to look at every aspect of recovery,” Baker said.

O’Connell said the assessment will take place over a two-day period and will include the two murals on the third floor of the building, the gargoyles (sculptures) adorning two facades, Masonic symbols crafted into the stone frame of the stained glass window, the window itself, and the red cross and weather vane which adorned the turret of the building. The red cross incorporated in to the late tile roof of the turret. The evaluation will also include the antique hardware on the doors and window frames of the building, O’Connell said.

Because of the temperature variables no affecting the interior of the building, the lathe and plaster walls have begun to buckle. O’Connell said the mural in the third floor ballroom depicting a Masonic scene of two knights on horseback cannot be saved, but will be recreated. A second, smaller mural in a third floor banquet room was destroyed as a result of water damage to the wall.

O’Connell said during the art recovery process, as many sections of the large mural will be saved as possible and be given to the city as artifacts.

Tobits said the recovery process will involve taking paint samples of the mural and stencils designs which are found throughout the building. The samples will be analyzed at an Oppenheimer laboratory to determine the original content of the pain pigments; part of the recovery will be to create a mural that will stand the test of time.

“We need to weigh the original pigment with synthetic pigments to make it last,” said Tobits.

Tobits said part of the recovery will be to determine what type of material the gargoyle sculptures and other stone artworks are made of, so each will be cleaned with the proper chemicals, avoiding damage to the pieces.

Tobits said a one foot by one foot chalk line grid is being created to document the scale of the ballroom mural, which will then be used to recreate the painting.

Tobits said Oppenheimer has a staff of nine conservators to work in the project, as well as laboratory support staff.

once the evalutation is completed, work will begin to create a template for the stencils designs found in the building; once the recovery project is fully underway, a team of artists will be on hand to paint the stencils and murals.

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