Oklahoma panel discusses protecting state Capitol artwork

Cost estimates of at least two proposals for preserving artwork in the Capitol will be presented by year's end to members of the Oklahoma State Capitol Preservation Commission.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: October 18, 2012 at 10:11 pm •  Published: October 19, 2012

Gann said blackout screens would block most light in the dome's 16 windows from getting to the murals. But they also would make the inside of the Capitol as dark as a cave.

“You'll have people bumping into each other,” she said. “People need to see where they're walking.”

Commissioners discussed the frustration of dealing with protecting the artwork while not hindering people who work there, as well as tourists.

“This building was never designed to be an art museum,” Commissioner Trait Thompson said.

Gann said commissioners will have to consider their best option. “You will not be able to achieve perfection,” she said.

The dome was added to the Capitol in 2002. Before the dome, no sunlight entered the rotunda, where murals and framed paintings on canvas are installed around the base of the dome and in locations along corridors beneath the dome.

Blackthorne Associates, which looks at ways to conserve and preserve artwork, recommended installing screens, also called scrims. But a company that installs scrims and shades told commissioners earlier it would be too risky because of the cost of repairing any of the 16 motors that might malfunction while under the first year of warranty. It suggested exterior scrims, which commissioners agreed would not last long in Oklahoma's extreme weather conditions.

Ellwanger said determining cost estimates will help commissioners move forward in making a decision.

“I do feel that coming up with the money is actually the easy part,” he said. “The hard part is deciding what appropriate action to take.”

I do feel that coming up with the money is actually the easy part. The hard part is deciding what appropriate action to take.”

Richard Ellwanger

State Capitol Preservation Commission Chairman

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