Restoration Of New York City’s Totally Kid Carousel

McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. and the Carousel Works of nearby Mansfield, Ohio, the famous maker of traditional carousels, will work together on a unique restoration project.

The Totally Kid Carousel is a collaborative work by artist Milo Mottola and the Fabricon Carousel Company of Brooklyn, NY. The artist used children’s drawings to create three-dimensional versions of various drawn animals for a carousel. While the art was creative in its concept and commendable its involvement of children throughout the community of Harlem, and while the installation won a 1995 Design Award from the Art Commission of the City of New York, the low budget carousel’s mechanical construction failed and fell apart on the day of its opening ceremony, September 12, 1997. The public opening the following day was cancelled. Then, even though blame for the failure was placed on a single flawed bolt, and even after repairs and engineering studies suggested it was safe, the carousel was kept closed and never run again because of fear of another catastrophe.

Now, thanks to a procurement by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the carousel will be remade and the artist’s animals will be recreated in more substantial construction and materials and put back into their intended use as rides for children.

The Carousel Works of Mansfield Ohio, the world’s largest maker of traditional wooden carousels, has been awarded the contract to rebuild the Totally Kid Carousel which had been installed in 1997 in Riverbank State Park in the Borough of Manhattan, New York City. The Carousel Works will rebuild the likeness of the original carousel but utilizing their own proven mechanical designs and better materials. The original builder, the Farbricon Carousel Company, was sold by its owner and founder, Marvin Sylvor, on his retirement in 2005. He collaborated with artists on other carousels such as with Red Grooms for the Tennessee Fox Trot Carousel in Nashville and with sculptor Jeffrey Briggs and painter Bill Rogers for a carousel in Detroit for the city’s new Riverwalk, a carousel featuring realistic life forms from the Detroit River habitat.

McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. is the project conservator working with the Carousel Works in restoring these animal figures which are considered to be works of art. The figures are made of painted glass fiber and resin castings. Milo Mottola spent a year and a half working with children ages 4 to 6, getting them to draw real and imaginary animals. From over 1,000 drawings, the artist selected 36 to recreate in three dimensions for the carousel. Then, over another year and a half, he and students of Cooper Union used wood, foam, fiberglass and spray paint to make them. The animals have not fared well during the long period of shut-down. The work of McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. and Carousel Works is to recreate the original appearance of the animals but with more lasting materials and construction.

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