On October 29, 2012 Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the New York and New Jersey coastal area. The news covered the destruction, devastation and loss to homes, business, and families. In the weeks after the storm surge had receded we first started hearing about the loss and damage to cultural materials. The first time I was aware of the issues with damage works of art was when I saw internet posts about the upcoming “Consortium on Recovery of Works of Art Damaged by Flooding” organized and presented at MoMA . This really opened my eyes to the huge amount of art and artifacts that are housed in the New York and New Jersey areas. I knew from friends and news reports that most of the museum in the area had been prepared and spared by the storm. However, I have not considered all of the small galleries and most importantly the artists themselves that were effected by the flood waters. I really applaud the early efforts of organizers like Jim Coddington and Lisa Elkins to pull together information and resources. Also, conservators like Caitlin O’Grady, Beth Nunan, Kala Harinarayanan, Rustin Levenson, Susan Duhl, and others that gave public lectures around New York to artists, gallery owners, art owners, and anyone else who needed the information.
As an AIC-CERT member my first thought was how can I help? Sure I have had wet recovery and disaster preparedness training but I will never be a paper or paintings conservator and this is what is most needed, so can I help? The answer came with the founding of the FAIC’s Cultural Recovery Center. The Cultural Recovery Center is located at 21 33rd Street, Brooklyn, NY (on the second floor) and is set up for artists and art owners to come and work with professional conservators on their art in the provided space. The CRC is not setup to provide free conservation treatments, but to provide professional assistance in the conservation and stabilization of works of art and other cultural materials.
One of the most rewarding things that I have done as a conservator was to work for a week helping to set-up the CRC. It started with such mundane but important tasks as getting the lights on, sealing windows, and cleaning the space but it quickly moved to setting up air cleaners, building clean room enclosures, and constructing paintings racks. By far the most rewarding and important work I did for the week was to start moving artist Ronnie Landfield‘s damaged canvases to the CRC for stabilization. Hearing his story and handling his works really hit home as to the importance of helping with disaster recovery. Blouin ArtInfo recently did a great video post on the CRC that includes an interview with Landfield about his experiences with Hurricane Sandy.
Artists and others in need of assistance are invited to contact the Cultural Recovery Center by phone: 718-757-2140 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org Information about the size of the collection, type of objects, and damage will be collected in order to ensure that appropriate space, equipment, and expertise will be available. Space at the CRC is limited, so all works must be received by appointment only.