There are no umbrellas to shield Radford University Art Museum’s “Sky Castles,” a sculpture created by Dorothy Gillespie, from the elements. Rain, sleet, snow, mist, and changing temperatures are all contributing to deterioration of this piece.
“Sky Castles” is one of 17 historical objects competing for the status of belonging to Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts list. The Virginia Collections Initiative, coordinated by the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM), is a statewide collaboration to ensure the ongoing safety and stewardship of collections held by Virginia’s museums, libraries, and archives.
“The endangered artifacts designation offers collecting institutions across the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia the opportunity to share their significant stories while building awareness of the threats and expense they face in serving as stewards of their collections,” VAM says in a statement on their website.
With its flaking paint, “Sky Castles” fits this designation. At one time, its four aluminum towers were colorful beacons. Now, the paint has begun to flake away from its surfaces.
“The piece has been exposed to the elements since its creation in 1999. In 2005 the artist rectified minor damage, but Mrs. Gillespie died last fall, so another such restoration is not possible,” museum director Dr. Steve Arbury said.
In order to save the Gillespie piece, the paint must to be removed through a soda blasting process and then repainted in the same four original background colors specified by the artist. Before her death, the museum received her permission to conserve the piece in this way.
Gillespie is considered a national artist. She was based in New York during her career, but she is a product of Southwest Virginia and was represented by many southern galleries. “Sky Castles” is a significant work of art for both Southwest Virginia and the Radford University Museum Collection. It was originally displayed at Disney World’s Epcot Center in Florida and is now situated at the main entrance to the university.
To learn more about Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifacts list and vote on them, visit www.vatop10artifacts.org. The voting is an online process that runs August 1- 29.
The RU College of Visual and Performing Arts is encouraging the public to take pictures of themselves at the sculpture and submit them to the college’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RadfordArts. “Sky Castles” is located on Radford University’s campus in front of Davis Hall and is accessible via Parking Lot A (911 Main Street, Radford, VA).
For more information about the Radford University Art Museum, please visit www.radford.edu/rumuseum or to learn more about Radford University, visit www.radford.edu.