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Seattle Mural, other public artworks get restored

The landmark glass mosaic Seattle Mural at Seattle Center is getting a makeover. Conservators are replacing missing glass pieces and cleaning the surface of silica deposits, to be finished in early August.

Created by artist Paul Horiuchi for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the mural provides the backdrop for the Mural Amphitheatre, a venue for events from rock shows to Shakespeare plays. The restoration was a joint project of the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and Seattle Center, with grant support from 4Culture and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Our conservation staff Tiffany Hedrick and intern Daniel Schwarz, along with consultants, have also been hard at work cleaning and restoring other treasured Seattle public artworks, including the Seattle Totem Pole at Pioneer Place Park. Carved in 1940 by Charles Brown and William H. Brown along with other Tlingit carvers, the totem is a replica of an original 1899 totem pole. Due to the age and heritage of the pole, conservation was time-consuming and retaining the original paint required careful methods. Staff used a “resist-o-graph” to measure resistance in the wood indicating location and depth of decay. Totem poles are also particularly susceptible to a variety of destructive insects and birds. Staff used products and treatments that are safe for the environment.

Staff has also recently completed work on several pieces at Seattle Center, including Gloria Bernstein’s Neototem Children’s Garden at Seattle Children’s Theater; Fu Dogs, a gift from the Republic of China, at the Phelps Center (housing the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s administrative offices and rehearsal studios); James Fitzgerald’s Fountain of the Northwest at Intiman Theater and many more artworks in preparation for The Next Fifty, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Out in the neighborhoods and parks, staff has been working with the community to maintain and restore objects such as the bell in the tower at Marvin’s Garden Park in Ballard. The bell has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. There’s also a new plaque on Doris Chase’s Changing Forms at Kerry Park, renovated and relocated with the help of the artist’s son, Randy Chase.

Through its conservation program, staff inspects and maintains approximately 400 artworks in the city’s public art collection.