Accompanied by a shower of bright confetti Tuesday, two conservators unbolted one panel of Wichita State University's iconic "Personnages Oiseaux," officially kicking off the mural's five-year restoration.
Patches of deteriorated particle-board backing peeked through where shards glass had fallen off the side of the WSU Ulrich Museum of Art.
"Thirty-three years in the harsh Kansas climate has not been kind to our mosaic," Ulrich Museum director Patricia McDonnell said Tuesday at a ceremony dubbed "See Miró Go."
For the next two weeks, workers will disassemble the mural, McDonnell said. Its 80 panels — each measuring 3-feet-by-5-feet — will be shipped to Missouri, where workers at Russell-Marti Conservation Services will painstakingly clean the mosaic's more than 1 million pieces of Venetian glass and marble and replace its wooden backing with perforated stainless steel.
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Models of the restoration process are on display inside the museum, McDonnell said.
The project will cost $3 million — $2.2 million to restore the mural and $800,000 for museum updates.
"It is tedious, tedious labor-intensive work," McDonnell said.
Though onlookers were delighted for the mural's preservation, many agree the Ulrich Museum won't be the same without it. The mural has been the centerpiece of WSU's 76-piece outdoor public art collection since its installation in 1978.
"This piece has been a part of my WSU reality," said WSU Foundation president and CEO Elizabeth King. "I can't imagine not having this iconic piece on our campus. We'll have an entire generation of students go through WSU and not have the mural."
The Ulrich Museum is asking for donations to help pay for the cost of the mural's restoration. Tax-deductible contributions can be made at www.beamirohero.com.
Donors can also "adopt" a panel for $25,000, payable over a five-year period. For more information about donating, contact Ulrich Museum director Patricia McDonnell at 316-978-3017 or Diana Gordon, director of development for the Ulrich Museum, at 316-978-7307.