Along with our collection of trees, significant sculpture helps define the Common, Garden, and Mall, including statues, fountains, and commemorative plaques. Forty-four in all, they range from the Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial of Augustus Saint-Gaudens on Beacon Street opposite the State House—acclaimed by many as the greatest work of American sculpture of the nineteenth century—to small plaques on the entrance gates at the mid-block Charles Street entrance to the Common.
Before 1970, public monuments and plaques received little or no care by the city. Only one statue (the White Memorial in the Garden) was endowed; all others were left to themselves. In an era of acid rain, pollution, and graffiti, such neglect was leading to disaster.
The first project of the Friends to address the situation was the restoration of the Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial. After that successful project, the Friends joined the Art Commission to create an “Adopt-a-Statue program” for restoration and endowment of sculpture citywide. Since then, we’ve been working in the three downtown parks to restore each piece, one by one.
ANNUAL SCULPTURE CARE PROGRAM
In 2010 the Friends launched an annual program of sculpture and fountain maintenance, as one of its 40th-anniversary legacy projects. Work includes a regular cycle of cleaning as well as conservation and restoration when needed. The cost for cleaning a piece of sculpture is approximately $700, while the cost for full restoration can be $20,000-$25,000. Implementing this annual program allows these important pieces of art to be professionally and cost-effectively conserved.
HENRY AND JOAN LEE SCULPTURE ENDOWMENT
During the 40th anniversary year in 2010, the Henry Lee Conservation Fund was established as a spending fund for sculpture care. Given the cost of maintaining the collection in the best possible condition, this fund will be spent down within the foreseeable future. Therefore, the Friends Board of Directors decided there was a need to provide an endowment sufficient to support the long-term care of the parks’ sculpture.
In 2016, the Friends established the creation of the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment in honor of the Lees’ legacy of commitment to the parks and their sculpture. The fund’s mission is to provide for the ongoing care of the public art in the Common, Garden and Mall, the largest concentration of public art in the city.