Alma Mater to miss 2013 Illinois graduation

Arts and CultureSculptureArtRenovationForest Park

Restoration work on the University of Illinois' Alma Mater sculpture is taking longer than expected, and the landmark statue won't be back on campus until the 2014 academic year.

According to a story on the university web site, the 5-ton work by Illinois alumnus and artist Lorado Taft, presently undergoing restoration in west suburban Forest Park, suffered enough damage over the years that the statue won't be back in place for 2013 graduation ceremonies, as had originally been planned.

The Alma Mater traditionally had been the backdrop to Graduation Day photographs for Illinois students, but it will miss commencement this school year for the first time since being first displayed on campus in 1929.

According to the story, the interior and exterior of each of the sculpture's 30 sections needed to "cleaned, repaired and treated" to deal with oxidation and corrosion, and lasers were being used to return it to its original bronze color. The disassembled sculpture left the campus for Forest Park on Aug. 7.

The extra restoration time also comes with additional costs. The original cost was $99,962, the story said, but the new cost is expected to be "no more than" $360,000. Alumni funds are paying for the restoration, the story said.

The Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, which is restoring the statue, has also restored many famous Chicago-area monuments, including Taft's Fountain of Time in Washington Park.

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