Yes, it's ship-shaped, but it's still rotten. So the International Park entrance sculpture is going down, said Marc Folk, head of the Art in Public Places Committee at the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.
The East Toledo artwork will be replaced with a commissioned sculpture within the next year or two, if the city's plan commission and council approve plans laid by the Arts Commission.
“We excavated the base of the sculpture right down to the foundation, and found it will cost $35,000 or $40,000 just to get the piece secured and treated,” Mr. Folk said. “That would only take care of the cosmetic problems. It could still be rotten in the middle. It's structurally sound now, but we decided it no longer serves a need like it did 18 years ago.”
The International Park sign was installed as part of the Portside project opening. It was meant to make the park attractive when viewed from the opposite bank of the Maumee River, Mr. Folk said.
Akron sculptor Harry Wheeler created the 20-foot work as both a sign and a sculpture. It is made of sealed layers of hardwood, planted deep in the ground and bolted to concrete underpinnings. Soil is heaped at its base for landscaping. This ground-level contact of wood with damp earth combined with years of weather and little maintenance to spell destruction.
A year ago, members of the Art in Public Places Committee examined the sculpture and reported the vertical “hockey stick” elements waving slightly to the push of a hand or wind. The horizontal parts were deeply grooved from weather-related expansion and contraction. A groundhog had built a home in its base.
Mr. Folk said the Arts Commission plan to “de-accession” the piece will be presented to the plan commission within the next two weeks, part of a Department of Parks and Recreation proposal. A design selection committee will decide what kind of artwork should replace it. “It will likely be nothing similar to what is there now,” Mr. Folk said.
Commissioning and executing a sculpture usually takes at least 18 months, and the present sculpture, newly secured, will stay put until its replacement arrives.
Even as it says goodbye to one sculpture, the city will welcome back an old favorite soon. Small Park with Arches, an architectural sculpture at Toledo Botanical Garden that fell victim to rot and lightning two years ago, will be rebuilt this winter and installed in time for spring 2003, Mr. Folk said. Fifteen other sculptures got goings-over this year, with work ranging from simple wax-and-buffs to complete take-down-and-moves, he said.
The conservation work was funded by a $69,450 allocation from the city's 2002 Percent for Art Budget, a fund that brought in $216,395. One percent of the city's capital improvements budget is set aside for public art.