Mural restoration set to begin in July


With all of their ducks in a row, the City of Mobridge and Friends of Scherr-Howe have taken the final steps in securing the conservators and artist for the restoration of the Oscar Howe murals.

According to Mobridge Chief Finance Officer Heather Beck, the contracts were sent out on Monday and calls securing the first of the grant funding to be released are currently being made.

What this means is that the restoration will happen this summer.

“Since we have met the conditions of the grants, we are ready to go,” said Beck. “They (FOSH) have $5,000 more than the estimated cost of the restoration work, in case of any unforeseen costs.”

Beck said the city is also ready to cover some costs if it becomes necessary.

It is estimated that the work will take approximately two months (from July to September).

Haden Merkel, executive director of the Mobridge Area Chamber of Commerce said she is relieved to have the project underway, but said there is still work to do before the conservation begins.

“We are definitely still looking for places for the artists to stay,” she said. “We are looking for accommodations for a lady from the Chicago Conservancy and a couple (an artist and his assistant, who is also his fiancé) coming to work on the murals July 1 through Sept. 30.”

She asked anyone who may be leaving for the summer, has rooms available or has a basement or apartment to rent, to call her at the Chamber office at 845-2387.

“The rent can also be substituted for a tax-deductible donation, too, if we have any philanthropists with a love of the arts out there,” she added.



The following is a synopses of the work to be done by the staff of the Conservation Center in Chicago on each mural.

The murals are painted in oil on a moderately textured concrete. A coating was painted over the murals, and this has darkened with age. There are also restorations and additional painting added to the murals, including clusters of native plants. Howe reportedly came back to Mobridge in the 1960s to repair some damage to the murals, but the report states that the additional restoration and other additions to the murals are not by his hand.

On the north wall, which depicts the “History Along the Missouri,” the murals are deteriorating because of water and heat damage, as well as the wear and tear from years of sports activities held in the gym.

The Conservators will photograph each mural, before, during and after the work. Each mural will be cleaned and the flaking paint will be reconnected with the surface with conservation adhesive. The cracks will be filled and the damage from the anchors of the basketball hoops will be repaired.

A special varnish will be applied to reduce the blanching that has occurred from exposure to heat and condensation.

The fee for conservation, depending on the time spent is from $12,000 to $16,000. Materials for the project are $650 to $1,000. Travel expenses are $5,900 to $9,220. The total for each mural is estimated to be $3,728 to $5,244.

The south wall depicting “Ceremonies of the Sioux,” is in better shape than the north wall. The murals do not suffer the same water streaks or condensation damage as those on the north wall. There are minor areas of blanching and small areas of loss of paint. The repairs to these murals are much more discrete than on the north wall. There is damage from the basketball hoop anchor and from the people using the bleacher section where they were within reach of the painting. The conservation steps will be the same as with the north wall.

The fee breakdown for the south wall is also approximately the same.

The total for the restoration is $37,280 to $52,060, plus the artist’s fee.

The artist, Nicholas Ward, will refresh the murals. His fee is an additional $34,500 plus lodging.

“That is why it is imperative that we find lodging for Nicholas and his fiancé,” said Merkel.

The building will be open to the public while the work is being completed.


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