Ready for a homecoming

Ready for a homecoming

Alma Mater is nearly ready to resume her rightful place on campus.

Champaign-Urbana's most famous lady is returning to town after nearly a two-year absence and a celebrity makeover.

We're talking about Alma Mater, of course, who along with her companions Learning and Labor, is set to resume her place near the corner of Wright and Green Streets on the University of Illinois campus sometime in April.

And what a makeover she received. Forget the old blue-green streaked look that many of us thought of as patina. The $360,000 trip to the beauty shop has restored her bronze-brown color.

As one UI official said, "When she's cleaned up, she's really got a very pretty face."

The iconic sculpture made by Lorado Taft in 1929 had suffered decades of water and corrosion damage by the time it was removed from its pedestal in August 2012 and sent to the Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio in Forest Park for restoration.

The original plan had the renovation completed last spring at a budget of $100,000, but the damage was found to be more extensive than thought, more than tripling the cost and adding a year to the project.

Besides removing surface corrosion with a laser, conservators took the sculpture apart and replaced about a thousand bolts. Still to come is a wax treatment to seal the surface.

So Alma should be in place in time for graduation pictures this year and hopefully she'll remain in good shape for decades to come.

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