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Survey of NEA Funded Sculpture Complete

In June 2003, SOS! finalized the national survey of permanent outdoor sculpture funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. At the onset of our project in October 2001, SOS! staff pored through dusty grant files and talked with former staff to identify approximately 460 public art projects located in 44 states plus the District of Columbia. Our task? Obtain the location, current condition, current image, and background information for each permanent outdoor sculpture created with support of the NEA, Art in Public Places, 1967-1992 (NEA-APP).

Through NEA grantees, public art administrators, museums, city officials, and volunteers, SOS! accounted for 91% of all NEA-APP public art projects. The high participation rate allows SOS! to extrapolate regarding the state of our national contemporary sculpture collection. Of the total NEA universe projects, nearly 90 were excluded because they were temporary, indoor, or non-sculptural; 330 were deemed permanent outdoor sculptures and included in our on-site survey. Assessment awards provided 67 sculptures with professional condition assessments. The reported conditions were alarming; nearly half need conservation and one-third is well-maintained. Eleven percent was destroyed.

NEA sculpture owners are beginning to step up to the preservation challenge. Six sculptures were conserved through the SOS! Conservation Treatment Award program, funded by NEA and Target Stores. Another six were conserved independently by the owners. Regular maintenance is of course vital to extending their good condition.

For a graph of survey responses, click here. For a breakdown of sculptures by condition, click here. All information gleaned from the survey will be provided to the NEA and the online Inventory of American Sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Photos show sculptures before and after conservation treatment:

Moses (1975) by Tony Smith. Credit: Art Conservation Services.

Southwest Pieta (1987) by Luis Jiminez. Credit: Kronkright Center for Cultural Materials, Inc.