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updated: 10/23/2013 5:59 PM

Alma Mater could return to U of I in '14

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  • The famous statue Alma Mater sits partly disassembled at a studio in Forest Park as it undergoes repair and restoration.

      The famous statue Alma Mater sits partly disassembled at a studio in Forest Park as it undergoes repair and restoration.
    photos Courtesy of the University of Illinois

  • The Alma Mater sculpture was created in 1929 by artist Lorado Taft and has long stood at Wright and Green streets in Urbana.

      The Alma Mater sculpture was created in 1929 by artist Lorado Taft and has long stood at Wright and Green streets in Urbana.
    Courtesy of the University of Illinois

 
Associated Press

URBANA, Ill. -- A famous sculpture may be back at the University of Illinois campus in time for the next year's spring graduation, officials said.

The 83-year-old bronze Alma mater statue of a robed woman flanked by figures celebrating "Learning" and "Labor" was removed for repairs in August 2012. Now restoration work to fix extensive water damage and corrosion is continuing at a Forest Park studio, according to a report in The (Champaign) News-Gazette.

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Workers have disassembled the piece, removing nearly 1,000 bolts that were used to hold 48 sections together. Some of the iron bolts were so badly deteriorating that they crumbled in workers' hands.

"Getting inside, that's the biggest challenge, trying to reach all the bolts and screws," Andrzej Dajnowski, who works with the Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio in Forest Park. "We just want to do it correctly."

Kames Lev, architect in the Office of Capital Programs and chairman of the campus Architectural Review Committee, said crews have removed the heads of all three figures as well as a 400-pound arm on the sculpture's main figure, Alma Mater.

"She's disarmed but not disrobed," Lev said.

The project has cost about $360,000 -- more than triple the initial projection. Dajnowski and Lev are expected to participate in a panel discussion Friday afternoon at the school.

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