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Oklahoma Capitol statue 'The Guardian' to be cleaned, inspected

A cleaning and inspection is past due for the bronze statue of the American Indian warrior, which was placed on top of Oklahoma state Capitol's dome 11 years ago. It hasn't been cleaned or inspected since. Getting to the statue, which towers about 250 feet above the ground, has been a main obstacle.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: July 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: July 21, 2013

“And how do you rotate around the piece without involving a risk of damage to it?” she asked.

Sharples said the nonprofit Friends of the Capitol group, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring and preserving the Capitol and its artwork, pays for cleaning statues inside and outside the Capitol. The two exterior statues, “Tribute to Range Riders” and “As Long As the Waters Flow,” which are both on the south plaza, are cleaned and waxed every year or so. It costs $500 to $1,000 to clean each of those statues.

Sharples said the Legislature could be asked to appropriate money so “The Guardian” and other statues could be routinely cleaned and waxed.

Trait Thompson, vice chairman of the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission, said another option would be to use some of the $30 million appropriated this year to the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission, which is to address repairs to the state Capitol and the long-term management of state buildings and properties. A majority of members have yet to be appointed to the commission, which was reconfigured in legislation approved and signed into law this year.

“It's certainly something that needs to be looked at,” he said. “One of the first hurdles would be to find funding to do something like that. There's no budget that I'm aware of where any sort of regular cleaning of any of the bronze statues around the Capitol, including “The Guardian,” is included in any sort of regular maintenance schedule.”

Thompson said a protective coating called a patina was applied to “The Guardian” to protect it.

“But over time if you don't clean those statues that patina that protects the metal starts to break down,” he said. “So the longer you go up there between cleanings, A, the more it's going to cost to clean and preserve the statue and, B, the more the statue can be subject to deterioration.”

Sharples, who was named the arts council's executive director last month, said “The Guardian” should be inspected and cleaned annually.

“Just like any type of artwork you always have to maintain it in order to keep it resilient and in good condition,” she said.