At A Glance“It was gorgeous. It sparkled incredibly. You could see the reflections of the city skyline in it..."
The Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture in the Walker Art Center sculpture garden has existed as a Minneapolis landmark since it was commissioned in 1985, but in recent years, Minnesota winters had taken their toll. The cherry—a welded aluminum sphere through and over which water flows— had picked up a few dips and sags, and museum personnel decided it was time to return the cherry to its original splendor.
A mere coat of paint wasn’t going to do the job, however. A team including painting contractors Swanson & Youngdale (Minneapolis) and Industrial Painting Specialists (Hugo,Minn); engineering services firm Braun Intertech; and Sherwin-Williams protective and marine rep Mark Edmonds decided the cherry needed to be stripped to its relative stone to get a long-lasting system in place, as the original system had failed.
The roughly 9-foot-diameter, 2,000-lb cherry was transferred to Industrial Painting specialists’ shop, where Swanson & Youngdale stripped it to its aluminum skeleton, then began rehabilitating it with Epoxy Fairing Compound.
“That was the sensible thing to do, to essentially start over,” says Chris Swingley of Swanson &Youngdale. “And it became very much a joint venture in getting it done successfully.”
The team started with a coat of SeaGuard Multi-Purpose Epoxy Primer and one coat of SeaGuard 5000 HS, an epoxy coating designed for immersion service, before applying a layer of fairing compound and sanding it smooth, and then applying another coat of Sherwin-Williams SeaGuard 5000 HS. They followed with repeated applications of fairing compound and sanding, always finishing with a coat of SeaGuard 5000 HS to help highlight any surface irregularities.
“Those guys applying the fairing compound, I hesitate to call them painters,” says Gary Papermaster of Industrial Painting Specialists.” They were artists.”
Once the painstaking task of preparing a perfectly smooth surface was complete, painters applied a couple coats of Y7001 Yacht Grade Urethane (in Cherry Red, of course) and topped it with a clear coat of the same product. The cherry’s stem received the same treatment, in black.
While all involved agreed the project had been “a lot of fun to be involved with,” there was also a collective sigh of relief upon completion.
“There was no insurance on this piece, in part because one of the original artists was no longer alive,” says Papermaster. “So I think we were all glad when it was over.”
At an unveiling at the Sculpture Garden in early May, a crowd gathered to see the restored cherry in all its splendor.
“It was gorgeous,” says Papermaster, who attended the event. “It sparkled incredibly. You could see the reflections of the clouds and the city skyline in it.”
Says Walker registrar Joe King, who oversees the maintenance of all the artworks in the Garden. “As caretakers of the museum's collection— both inside in the galleries and outside in the elements—we are committed to maintaining and preserving our artworks so that generations to come can enjoy them as much as visitors do today. The repainted cherry has returned Spoonbridge and Cherry to its original splendor.”