The City of Portland announced today that it is continuing its partnership with The Maine Project for Fine Art Conservation (Project MEAC) to complete the conservation of the first of the city-owned portraits and paintings on canvas. In 2013, the City announced the partnership with Project MEAC to conserve more than a dozen city-owned portraits, two of which were found in the City Hall attic. Project MEAC is a local non-profit that operates a conservation laboratory on Congress Street in downtown Portland, providing services to individuals, businesses, collecting institutions, and government entities. Project MEAC involves students and interns from local colleges, universities, and Portland’s high schools. Paintings to be conserved include portraits of Portland Mayors George Wescott (1873-1874), Charles Libby (1882), and Fredericke Boothby as well as Cyrus H.K. Curtis, donor of the Kotzschmar Organ, and Maine politician William Pitt Fessenden.
On November 16, the City is hosting a fundraiser in the State of Maine Room at 5:00 PM in an effort to raise the funds needed for the conservation of the City Hall Paintings Collection. There will also be an unveiling of the work done thus far on the William Pitt Fessenden portrait.
“These paintings are valuable pieces of the city’s history, several surviving not one, but two fires at City Hall,” stated City Manager Jon Jennings. “The restoration project is not only a great opportunity for the city to reclaim a piece of its history, but a chance for Portland students to learn about the field of art conservation. I hope that people will attend the reception on November 16 to learn more about this work and consider supporting the endeavor.”
Director of Project MEAC, Domenico Mattozzi, PA-AIC, said “Who decides what art is to be conserved and preserved for future generations? Is ‘civic art’ to be considered a lesser form of ‘historical and artistic representation’? While it may be less glamorous than renowned and fashionable artworks in museums, the art we see in our city halls, public schools, and public libraries is the real ‘people’s art’. It is the art we don’t pay a fee to see, yet, regretfully, we get to used to it and sometimes forget and neglect it. Civic art is an integral part of our cultural patrimony and we need to take care of it properly, now, before it disappears forever.”
Local historians will be on hand for the November 16 event to talk about William Pitt Fessenden. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate before becoming the Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. He was a leading antislavery member of the Whig (later the Republican) party and prior to his political career in Washington DC practiced law in Portland.
Upon completion the conserved artwork will be displayed on the walls of City Hall along with a presentation illustrating the conservation process.