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The Daily Plant : Thursday, May 15, 2003

CITYWIDE MONUMENTS PROGRAM RECEIVES MAJOR AWARD


On March 27, 2003, the New York Landmarks Conservancy bestowed the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program with one its prestigious Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards for 2002. At an awards ceremony held at the New York Public Library, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Director of Art & Antiquities Jonathan Kuhn accepted the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Organizational Award on behalf of the program.

"We are lauding your program for its commitment to cherish and protect historic monuments in all the boroughs of New York City," wrote New York Landmarks Conservancy President Peg Breen in a congratulatory letter to Parks & Recreation.

"We take our inspiration from the words of George Washington inscribed on the south entablature of the Washington Square Arch: ‘Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair…,’" said Mr. Kuhn. "The Program utilizes the collection as a teaching laboratory, taking care though not to treat historical artifacts or artworks as guinea pigs, but instead using them as instructional objects, where college and graduate-level apprentices receive direct supervision and rigorous training from a small but dedicated staff."

Parks & Recreation has in its custody the most extensive municipal collection of public art and monuments in the nation. This "outdoor museum," open to the public for free from dawn to dusk, numbers more than 1200 sites, and includes more than 300 items of sculptural significance. Many of the artworks are by the American masters of the 19th and 20th centuries. The commemorative monuments honor the heights of human achievement and the depths of human sacrifice; they are permanent reminders of the people and events which shaped our city, the nation and the world.

In 1997, the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program was launched with two initial goals: to augment through private investment the City’s care of its public art collection and to train the next generation of conservators. The program structure replicates on a citywide basis the successful model in Central Park, in which a small dedicated professional staff is assisted in the summer season by student trainees. In its first six years, the program has conserved 41 sculptural pieces, and maintained (often on an annual basis) 71 additional sculptures. Forty interns have received training in the methods and precepts of outdoor sculpture conservation.

Members of the program’s staff include Mark Rabinowitz, Robin Gerstad, Martha Seelenberger, Jonathan Kuhn, Molly McDonald, John Cole, John Zimny, and Victor Riddick. The program recruits interns from a broad pool of applicants enrolled in college and graduate-level programs in historic preservation, objects conservation, fine arts and art history. Trainees have been culled from every region of the United States, and have come from Venezuela, Denmark, Chile, New Zealand, Canada, Puerto Rico and Germany. More recently the program has partnered with the Brooklyn High School for the Arts' Preservation Program in its search for qualified apprentices.

Pieces scheduled for conservation this summer include the Carl Schurz Monument in Manhattan’s Morningside Park (1913, Karl Bitter, sculptor, and Henry Bacon, architect), the Puerto Rican Sun, a 25-foot-tall archway made of Cor-Ten steel in Fox Park in the Bronx (1979, Raphael Ferrer), and the bust of Alexander J.C. Skene at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza (1905).

Major funders of the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program have included the Florence Gould Foundation, the Laurance Rockefeller Fund, the David Schwartz Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the American Express Company, and the American Battle Monuments Commission.

This year, the New York Landmarks Conservancy celebrated its 30th anniversary of preserving and protecting New York’s unique architectural heritage. Since 1973, the Conservancy has advocated for preservation, and has awarded nearly $22 million in loans and grants. The Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards are the Conservancy’s highest honors for excellence in historic preservation and are named in honor of dedicated New Yorkers who generously helped the city for half a century through gifts to hospitals, universities, cultural institutions, and parks.

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

"Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny."

Carl Schurz

(1829-1906)

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