Sculptures Imported by J.C. Nichols Get First Scrubbing in Nearly 20 Years
BY LILY OPPENHEIMER
The Kansas City Star
JULY 21, 2017 12:17 PM
The huntress at 68th Terrace and Ward Parkway is short one arm and a chunk of her chin, but otherwise she’s in pretty good shape.
Of course, she could use a good cleaning, having not had one in almost 20 years.
“It’s not a well-known fact that we need to maintain these,” said Joanie Shields, Kansas City coordinator for Adopt A Monument, an organization that gives demonstrations to home owners, parks departments and others on how to preserve sculptures.
Volunteers will give the figure of Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, and a fellow marble sculpture nearby a thorough but gentle scrubbing on Saturday, July 29.
“It takes a lot of cleaning to get all the stuff that comes from the emissions from cars, proximity to the road and dust and emissions from the engines have settled on them off of Ward Parkway,” Shields said.
The centuries-old statues are among many imported from Europe by J.C. Nichols to beautify his Country Club District. Their grace lends character to the neighborhoods south of the Country Club Plaza.
What many don’t realize is that neighborhood residents are responsible for cleaning certain statues, said Paul Benson, a conservator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art who will lead the cleaning session. He is an unpaid volunteer with Adopt A Monument, which in Kansas City is part of the City of Fountains Foundation.
The two works on 68th Terrace probably date to the 18th century and were placed in the 1930s, said Ann McFerrin, Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department archivist. They are owned by the Romanelli West Homes Association.
Benson said that since he joined the conservation team, these particular sculptures have been cleaned only once, in 1999.
“They’ve had quite a few years to get some organic growth on them,” he said. “When I looked at them about a month ago, they weren’t as bad as I thought they were going to be. But still, we don’t like organic growth like that because they secrete acids.”
People, he said, “like the look of algae on these figures and it gives them that nice old look (but) it’s not good for the stone at all.”
Volunteers can use soft toothbrushes or other soft general-use brushes from a hardware store to clean the sculptures.
“What we don’t want to do is just go and take a metal brush and attack it,” Benson said. “We try to use soft materials; we try to use as few chemicals as possible.”
Shields expects about a dozen volunteers to show up on Saturday. She hopes the knowledge will spread and more people in the district will learn how to clean the sculptures.
For more information, call the City of Fountains Foundation office at 816-842-2299.