Sculpture restoration specialist packs up the Peace Fountain
By Christina Killion Valdez
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Through the years, Rochester’s Peace Fountain has become a downtown icon. However, its rings of interlocking doves have also become corroded and crusty.
So as the Peace Plaza is transformed into a two-block pedestrian plaza, its namesake fountain is also getting a facelift.
Leading the restoration effort is Kristin Cheronis, a Twin Cities-based sculpture and object conservation specialist who has also restored the "Man and Freedom" sculpture hung in the Gonda Building, a two-year project completed in 2000.
Cheronis traveled to Rochester on Monday as the Peace Fountain was loaded up to be transported to her work space in St. Paul.
"This is about as heavily encrusted a sculpture as I’ve ever seen," Cheronis said.
Unlike when the fountain was dedicated in June 1989 with the release of 57 birds, the 57 bronze doves no longer seem captured in flight, but rather stuck in a white crust of mineral deposits.
On parts of the sculpture, Cheronis could pick off flakes of mineral deposits with her fingernail, while in other areas she scraped away globs of corrosive material that seemed to be oozing from the metal itself.
"In theory, cast bronze is solid, but this shows there are large pockets of porosity in parts of it," she said.
She also pointed out that Rochester artist Charles Gagnon’s signature can be seen on the chest of one of the birds, along with someone else’s artwork, a pair of eyes drawn in pen on one of the birds. Most concerning, however, was that one of the statue’s six legs was broken and filled with sediment.
"It makes me nervous about the rest of them," she said, before noticing that two other legs were also cracked.
All six will most likely need to be welded back on more securely, she said. Yet, on Monday morning the focus was ensuring the 10-foot-tall, 3,500-pound sculpture was securely fasted to the trailer. Overseeing the move was Andrew MacGuffie, of MacGuffie Rigging in Minneapolis, who specializes in transporting sculptures.
After this, Cheronis and her crew will have six to seven weeks to restore the sculpture and return it to its perch in the Peace Plaza, where this time it will have a special water filtration system and proper care instructions.