Steamboat’s sculptures get a facelift |

Steamboat’s sculptures get a facelift

Frances Hohl For Steamboat Today

A crane was used to remove the Ashley Stamp sculpture at Howelsen Hill. The bronze statue is now undergoing a cleaning at a foundry in Loveland thanks to a public art maintenance effort undertaken by the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Residents may have noticed several of Steamboat Springs' prominent art sculptures being craned, crated and hauled away last week.

Never fear, the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Arts Council are partnering to protect the city's valuable assets with a good cleaning, waxing, and in some cases, more detailed refurbishing of the bronze artwork.

"Steamboat Springs has a very unique environment," said Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Kim Keith. "Not only do we have harsh cold winters, but we have 150 mineral springs in the downtown area that release corrosive matter into the air."

Ironically, some of the same corrosive elements found in the town's hot springs will also be used by art conservators to actually clean bronze sculptures like the Ashley Stamp Memorial that sits outside the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Ideally, the town's numerous bronze sculptures would be re-waxed once a year, while the one's closer to the hot springs, should get twice-a-year attention, Keith said.

The music conductor sculpture "Antonio," which sits outside the Art Depot, is going in for a full "facelift."

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"They are bringing him to the foundry to get re-patinaed and re-lacquered and re-waxed … the full treatment," Keith said.

When doing more detailed work like this, the foundry, which is located in Loveland, will often bring in the artist. In this case, that's "Antonio" artist Wayne Salge, who will help make sure the sculpture's original color and integrity remain intact.

Bronze sculptures are typically made of magnesium, copper and silica. On top of that, the artist uses a patina or a coloring to accentuate the color of the statue.

"If it's an elk, they may want it to be brown," Keith said.

The patina goes on top of the metal and then a lacquer seal and a protective wax is applied.

"When the wax wears off, the corrosive minerals start corroding the actual metal," Keith explained. "There's potential for holes in the sculpture, so you never want it to get there."

The third bronze sculpture being treated is the Force V sculpture by the late Hill Blackett. It normally sits on a corner near Carl's Tavern but tree sap and birds have been giving the 4-foot abstract piece a bit of extra "patina" that it doesn't need, so it is going in for a little work.

The city budgeted $10,000 for public art maintenance this year, and the Arts Council is matching that amount thanks to a grant from the Downtown Public Art Fund.