Standing watch over the city of Osceola off Highway 34, is the statue of Warrior Osceola, the city’s namesake and icon of pride for generations. As with many outdoor art installations, Warrior Osceola is starting to show the wear of decades out in the elements. As a precautionary procedure, the Arts Council and the City, with financial support from the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC), recently took steps to see what could be done to protect and prolong the life of the loved wooden sculpture for future generations.
“These sculptures are very difficult to maintain,” said Kate Emanuel, current president of the Clarke Area Arts Council. “But we want to make sure Warrior Osceola will be around for our kids and their kids.”
Take a look at some photos from the sculpture survey:
A $1,000 donation from the CCDC helped the Arts Council contract art preservationist, Megan Emery, from Midwest Art Conservation Center (MACC) out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A referral from the Des Moines Art Center, MACC specializes in the preservation and conservation of art and artifacts, providing treatment, education, and training for museums, historical societies, artists, and others throughout the Midwest. Emery, Chief Conservator and Senior Objects Conservator, spent Monday afternoon evaluating the current condition of the Warrior Osceola sculpture and reviewing actions taken over the past decades to preserve and protect the piece.
“Much of what we saw was standard wear and tear on the sculpture due to Iowa weather,” said Emery. “But some efforts to protect the sculpture, while done with good intentions, may be contributing to an accelerated deterioration of the wood.”
Steps taken over a decade ago to protect the statue included the application of a foil-like flashing, adhered with tar, on the top of the statue. According to the MACC professional, this material likely helped weather-seal the statue for a short time, but ultimately caused unnatural erosion and damage to the sculpture due to the degradation of the foil and tar. While this sounds detrimental to the future of the statue, Emery was quick to point out that even with the patching attempt the statue was in better condition than she’d originally thought.
“The condition of this piece is what we’d expect to see from a sculpture of this age,” said Emery. “What we need to do now is figure out how to slow the impact of future wear.”
With the help of Clarke County Electric Cooperative, the conservationist inspected the statue from top to bottom, taking detailed notes and photos. With that, she will head back to Minneapolis to put the information into a status report with preservation and treatment options, focused on preserving and extending Warrior Osceola’s lifespan.
Preservation suggestions with pricing are estimated to be back to the Clarke Area Arts Council within three to four weeks. Once received, the members of the Arts Council, along with the City and the CCDC, will review options and the actions needed to fund the project.
“The exam by MACC was to learn what we can do to preserve our landmark Warrior Osceola as long as we can,” said Emanuel. “Their report should be enlightening.”