Paintings Conservation, Mural Conservation:

The greater Cleveland area has had a rich history in public murals throughout the 20th century. Much of the earlier mural work was completed by non-native artists, but the economic downturn of the 1930s and resulting New Deal programs, provided more opportunities for local artists. Once such public mural is Steel Industry by artist Glenn Shaw which still graces the ceiling of the former Frank T. Bow Federal Building in Canton, Ohio. Shaw was a local artist who served as the Head of the Mural Department at the Cleveland Institute of Art (previously the Cleveland School of Art) from 1937 to 1957, inspiring generations of Cleveland area mural artists.

Detail: Soaking pit for ingot

His mural, Steel Industry, illustrates the once booming steel industry in the Greater Cleveland area, which is now largely a thing of the past. Thirteen scenes feature the different processes including: ore unloading, the blast furnace, drawing hot metal, adding alloys in the furnace, pouring ingots, soaking ingots, rolling bar, tube, and strip steel, the power steam hammer, electric welding, pushing a coke oven, and quenching.  Glenn Shaw renders these depictions in muted tones with an illustrative quality providing the viewer with an intimate vantage point as if walking through the building at the time of production. Workers in the various scenes appear minute compared to the large machinery they are operating, demonstrating the sheer magnitude of the American steel industry in the 1930s.

McKay Lodge has treated this Glenn Shaw mural before, but like many works of art, the mural requires routine maintenance to ensure it stays in good condition. The Steel Industry mural had areas of flaking paint, some curling edges, impact damage in a few areas,  debris on its surface, and several losses. Conservator Stefan Dedecek who specializes in Paintings, Murals and Polychrome Surfaces traveled to Canton, Ohio to perform the most recent conservation of the public mural painting.

Detail of abrasion and flaking paint that required consolidation

Working carefully Conservator Stefan Dedecek consolidated areas of insecure or flaking paint, and curled edges were reattached with a retreatable adhesive. Debris and dust on the surface was removed with a soft bristle brush followed by a wet cleaning with a mild detergent and solvent mixture combined with a chelating agent. Abrasions and losses were inpainted with acrylic paints to create a more visually continuous surface. Though the underlying varnish was in good condition, it did require another coating. Once clean, the mural was re-varnished with a conservation grade resin with a UV light stabilizing additive to better protect the painted surface.

Some damages, such as bulges in the canvas and previous repairs, could not be addressed at this time since the primary purpose of the treatment was to stabilize the surface and reduce the visual impact from accumulated dust and losses.

Learn more about Public Mural history and the role of artist Glenn Shaw in the Cleveland area here.

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