The Cambridge Arts Council's Public Arts Conservation Program


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Program assesses, maintains, and restores 300+ public artworks yearly

Edwin Andrews - Dot Matrix

Cambridge has over 300 public artworks all across the city. I've enjoyed them for years without ever really thinking about who takes care of them, so I decided to find out more.

Earlier this Summer, I did two stories about the restoration of public art pieces, East Cambridge - 1852 and The Bluefish is Good Tonight.

Last week, I had a chance to sit down with Rika Smith McNally, Director of Art Conservation and Rachel Newsam, Collections Care Specialist, at the Cambridge Arts Council offices to find out more about their work.

"Our program is divided into three parts" says McNally. "The first is assessment of the condition of existing public artworks, which we do year-round, sometimes in response to emails or phone calls from residents reporting that an artwork is deteriorating or damaged." According to McNally, "The second part of our work is maintenance and it's one of the most important things we do." Every year, in the warmer seasons, the arts conservation team takes care of every public artwork in the city. The maintenance work ranges from washing and waxing metal sculptures to removing graffitti and stickers to, in some cases, more intensive restoration.

Pre-fabrication review is the third part of the program work and it happens in advance of an artwork being installed by the Arts Council.

Of the maintenance and conservation work, "Each Summer, I assemble a team of five or six conservation technicians" says Rachel Newsam. "We go all over the city to do our work and really enjoy the interactions we have with residents. People are happy to see us taking care of their favorite artworks with our scrub brushes, pails,and other materials!"

More about public art conservation in Cambridge.

Take your own tour of Cambridge public art.

What's your favorite public artwork in our fair city?