URBANA — Devoted children of Alma, you may want to clear your schedules for Friday morning.
The University of Illinois will host a rededication ceremony (and birthday party) for the statue to mark its official return to campus after undergoing extensive conservation work.
"The sculpture is going to be 85 years old on June 11. Why not celebrate? It's been here for 85 years and we've had all this amazing conservation work done," said Christa Deacy-Quinn, collections manager for Spurlock Museum and member of the Alma Mater Conservation Committee.
She called the statue "an enduring symbol of campus."
"It's a beloved piece on campus," she added.
The event kicks off at 10 a.m. at the Alma Mater Plaza at Green and Wright streets. A panel discussion featuring the conservator will follow at 11:15 a.m. in the Illini Union.
The first 250 attendees will each receive a commemorative T-shirt (that says "Alma's back" on the back), plus holographic magnets that depict the statue's looks before and after the work. People will be invited to sign a birthday card that will be displayed in the Illini Union. Cupcakes will be served.
UI music Professor Ollie Watts Davis will sing "Illinois," the state song, and several speakers are scheduled to deliver remarks. Jean Taft Douglas Bandler, a granddaughter of artist Lorado Taft and the daughter of late U.S. Sen. Paul Douglas, will share stories about her grandfather. Other speakers include Chancellor Phyllis Wise; Andrzej Dajnowski, the lead conservator from the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio; and Deacy-Quinn.
Created by Lorado Taft and originally dedicated on June 11, 1929, Alma Mater was removed from campus in August 2012 and sent to Dajnowski's studio in Forest Park in response to a committee's recommendation that it needed some conservation work. Originally scheduled to be returned to campus in May 2013, the sculpture ended up undergoing additional work due to extensive water damage and corrosion. The work involved laser cleaning, adding a patina and replacing more than 1,000 bolts. It took 20 months and the total cost was $359,212, paid for by donations from alumni and friends to the UI's Chancellor's Fund.
The statue was returned to campus to great fanfare on April 9; Friday's event is meant to be a more formal welcome, said Joel Steinfeldt, the university's brand manager. It also will be an occasion to thank everyone involved in the project, Deacy-Quinn said.
"Alma's really the symbolic mother of the Illinois family. We're celebrating her birthday and her return as the symbol of the Illinois family. Labor and Learning represent the school's motto and the representation that learning isn't complete without a little hard work," Steinfeldt said.
At the rededication ceremony, Andre Dajnowski will give a brief talk about working on the sculpture. Afterward he will participate in a longer panel discussion that will focus on technical aspects of the project, such as the laser cleaning. That discussion will be in room 314A in the union.
In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be in the Illini Union's South Lounge.