Gift to restore WSU's outdoor sculpture collection

9:56:38 AM CDT - Thursday, January 30, 2003

By Teresa Veazey

Museums aren't usually open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 356 days a year.

But art is readily available day and night on the Wichita State University campus. Works by big names in the realm of art history, such as Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg, Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin, are part of WSU's world-class Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection.

Nearly 70 works adorn the WSU campus. "WSU's outdoor sculpture collection is one of the oldest and largest in the country," said David Butler, director of the Ulrich Museum. "Our emphasis now is on conserving and caring for the collection as well as selectively adding new works by artists with national and international reputations."

An anonymous donor recently made a $525,000 gift to the WSU Foundation for the exclusive purposes of conserving and preserving the outdoor sculpture collection. Of this gift, $25,000 will be used this fiscal year and the remainder will be placed in an endowment, which will pay for most of the collection's basic maintenance and care, Butler said.

The outdoor sculpture collection being open 24 hours a day translates into a fair amount of stress on the artwork. For example, Luis Jimenez's fiberglass sculpture, "Sodbuster," depicting a farmer and his ox, is damaged as a direct result of people precariously perching themselves on the ox.

"Outdoor sculptures are intended to be placed outside, but because they are constantly subjected to whatever elements Mother Nature doles out, they require consistent TLC," said Mark Janzen, collections manager at the Ulrich Museum of Art and primary monitor of the conditions of outdoor sculpture on campus. "Cleaning and other simple tasks are things that I can do to keep the outdoor sculpture collection in tip-top shape. But when it comes to corrosion removal, the application of chemicals and solvents, and the actual, physical repair of damaged or deteriorated pieces, those processes have to be done by trained professionals to ensure the longevity of the works."

To view photos of most of the pieces in the collection, visit www.wichita.edu/sculpture.

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