Statues To Be Restored Following Vandalism

Katie Graves, Guest Contributor •

Last spring, the iconic statues of John Emory and Patrick Henry in front of Kelly Library were vandalized with a chemical-based fire extinguisher.

The protective wax coating on the bronze statues was removed. Emory & Henry College is now searching fora local artist to help restore the monuments of the college’s namesakes.

Director of Facilities Planning and Management Scott Williams says maintenance employees attempted numerous times to clean the whitish coating left on the statues from the chemical agent in the fire extinguisher.

“We tried soap and water, pressure washing and just different things to try and get that white off – it didn’t work. Professor [of Art] Charles Goolsby gave us some ideas on how [to clean the statues] using Toluene, Xylene, mineral spirits and different solvent agents, and nothing seemed to work,” said Williams.

Chair of the Art Department Manda Remmen, who has a master of fine arts degree in sculpture from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, said, “When Emory & Henry ‘washed off’ the residue from the extinguishers, the cleanser also washed off the protective wax coating that the sculptures had to protect the bronze from the elements.”
One of the college’s chief concerns is the weathering of the statues’ patina, which is an applied protective layer on the bronze to prevent corrosion or weathering.

“The process [for restoring patina on bronze sculptures] involves taking off the original patina and the new natural patina, the blue that is forming, through very light sandblasting, or the use of gentle abrasives, and then reapplying patina. After the patina is complete they will wax the sculptures to protect the patina and the bronze from water and pollution,” said Remmen.

E&H reached out to the sculptor Jon Hair, who donated the statues to the campus in 2012 in celebration of 175th anniversary of the founding of the College.

Although Hair agreed to restore the bronze statutes himself, Williams says the College is hesitant to move forward in dismantling, boxing, and shipping them to Florida, where Hair now resides, due to the major concern of shipping costs given the weight of the statues.

Another major concern is that the statue pedestals will be broken once they are dismantled.

“We are now in the process of finding someone local to restore the statues,” said Executive Assistant to the President and General Counsel Mark Graham.

Graham says the nearest company that is interested is located in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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