A Farewell to Arms
Alma Mater departs campus for restoration studio
|Photography by Daryl Quitalig.|
And so the bittersweet hour came, after many long seasons of corrosive Midwestern weather and a short summer of delay. Early on the morning of August 7, the forces massed on Green Street – workers in hard hats, a big white crane, supervisors, spokespeople and onlookers. Together with Learning, Labor and her modest little throne, the Alma Mater of the University of Illinois was cordoned by yellow police tape, strapped to a big red hook and swung into the air. A journey of three very slow and caution steps got her onto a set of sawhorses, thence to the flatbed of a tractor trailer and en route to the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio in Forest Park, some three hours north. The Altgeld chimes were singing of 1 p.m. as she bounced up Wright Street.
Accomplished in under six hours, the removal by Methods & Materials (a Chicago firm that specializes in muscling around enormous and valuable works of art) had gone extraordinarily well – as though the statue’s late sculptor, Lorado Taft (who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees here in 1879 and 1880 respectively), were pulling strings of influence in spheres far removed from the Quad. While the day’s original scenario had called for possible disassembly of some of her 30 sections, Alma and her boys held strong and the crane lifted the whole five-ton of them en masse. On the truck they were strapped and padded and shrink-wrapped, looking mournful but still dignified as they rode away from the granite perch that had been home since 1962. (Unveiled by Taft in 1929, Alma Mater stood for 33 years near Foellinger Auditorium.)
The academic year of 2012 interposes between now and Alma’s expected return, triumphant in a restoration that will strengthen her body and make lustrous her bronze skin. The process is overseen by the Preservation Working Group, a University committee that addresses resources at risk from deterioration on the Urbana campus. Watch for updates on Alma’s restoration on the UIAA Facebook page.
|The crane preparing for the move.||Proud Illini.||Objects found underneath.|