So far, so good.
The giant stained-glass window, valued at $3 million, has arrived safely in downtown Davenport. In fact, it got to town early.
“We estimated it would take three work weeks to take it out (of a building in Cedar Rapids), and it took us 10 days,” said Pat Rogers, one of three co-owners of Glass Heritage in Davenport. “It went really, really well.”
The Davenport company earlier this summer was awarded a roughly $150,000 contract to restore and repair the one-of-a-kind, 25-foot-tall window, created by Iowa artist Grant Wood. His piece was commissioned in 1927 by the Veterans Memorial Commission of Cedar Rapids, which is where Wood grew up.
The window, which depicts life-size soldiers from various wars, along with a rising angel welcoming them home, was damaged during last year’s flood in Cedar Rapids. Workers from Glass Heritage removed it recently from the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall and brought it back to their shop in Davenport for the overhaul.
The staff at Glass Heritage is charged with repairing all of the 80 to 120 cracks that appeared in the glass after it sat in floodwater for more than a week. All 58 glass panels (containing about 800 pieces of glass) will be taken apart, cleaned and the glass reset.
“As we work, we’ll take close-up photographs of any damage, and it will become part of the piece’s historical record,” Rogers said. “We will provide the owners with a complete photo history of the restoration.”
Archiving the artwork’s history is largely completed, even before a single piece of glass is removed, she said.
Each of the panels will get a “working rubbing and an archive rubbing,” which is similar to the process used to lift an impression from a headstone. A pencil rubbing is used to capture the precise layout of the pieces’ lead, which makes up the window’s design.
One sketch will be archived with other historical records of the window, and the other rubbing will be used “as a roadmap” for the workers who are restoring the window, Rogers said.
“We also take photos of each piece — with the panels backlit, so we can see how the light comes through it — and with ambient light, so we can see how light falls on it,” she said.
“Keeping a record of the restoration is especially important, because this is important artwork. It is a one-and-only.”
The piece is so important that Glass Heritage was required to buy special insurance for it — protection from any damage that could have occurred in transit, along with protection from natural disasters or theft. And the company’s owners, Rogers, John Watts and Adrian English, installed extra security in their downtown workshop.
“Some of the people from 5 Turner Alley (the address of Woods’ personal studio in Cedar Rapids) are coming for a tour in September — see how we’re doing,” Watts said.
“We’re giving a tour to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in October, and we’re setting up three dates for the Figge.”
Landing the contract to repair such a high-profile piece has been good not only for Glass Heritage’s profile in the art world, but it’s also been good for business, he said.
“Right now, we probably have 22 projects going on in the building,” Watts said. “It’s been good for us, having the Wood.”
– Barb Ickes, Quad City Times