August 20, 2006

Art restoration experience on Parthenon frieze casts

Posted at 9:14 pm in Acropolis

More details of how the College of Staten Island are planning on incorporating their casts of the Parthenon frieze within their teaching programme.

SI Live (Staten Island Live)

Staten Island Advance
CSI has unique approach to teaching the classics
2 students getting hands-on experience in art restoration as they work on 12 detailed casts of the Parthenon Frieze
Sunday, August 20, 2006

The College of Staten Island is taking a unique approach when it comes to teaching the classics.

Capitalizing on the 12 detailed casts of the Parthenon Frieze they own, the college is giving two students hands-on experience in art restoration and will give numerous others the ability to learn Greek culture without leaving the school’s Willowbrook campus.

The casts, acquired from Staten Island Academy and given to the college in the 1960s when it was known as Richmond College, were manufactured by the Caproni Factory in Boston, Mass. They are made from the original 19th century molds.

While the college knew it had a rare piece of history, the casts were in disarray — eight hang in the wrong order inside the Center for the Arts, three were in storage and one was broken.


Embarking on a three-year, $65,000 project, the college is hoping to restore the friezes, hang them in the correct order and use them as a teaching tool for not only CSI students, but the community as well.

“They are a tremendous learning aid for all our students,” said Richard Truitt, vice president for college advancement. “We also hope elementary and high school students will come to see them.”

But, well before then, two students have been benefiting from the project and gaining professional experience, as they work with Manhattan-based art restorer and sculptor Treese Robb, who was hired by the college to get the friezes into top condition.

“In working with (this project), they get a sense of history and a sense of how fragile the (friezes) are,” said Ms. Robb. “(The experience) is absolutely excellent. They are considered works of art in and of themselves.”

For most of the summer, CSI students Wanda Calamia of Westerleigh and Marc Hansen of Tottenville have been, among other things, gluing broken pieces of the casts into place and dipping burlap into Plaster of Paris to keep them in place.

What they are learning is equivalent to professional-level restoration work and will be an added perk to their resumes, said Ms. Robb.

“I jumped at the opportunity to work on something like this,” said Ms. Calamia, 25. “Just the idea of being involved in something so big and exciting was so inspirational.”

The duo hopes their long hours and hard work will pay off when they graduate.

“I was an art major and I love history and this combines both,” said Hansen, 20. “Once I complete my degree I would maybe like to do this (kind of work).”

In addition to the actual restoration of the casts, the college hopes to send Sandra Gambetti, a professor of Greek and Roman history, to Boston, Mass., the site of a small museum where she will do research on the friezes and try to learn more about their history before coming to Staten Island.


Ms. Gambetti, has been the driving force behind the restoration project after she attempted to use the public display as a teaching tool in her class, but couldn’t because they were in the wrong order and pieces were missing.

Truitt credits her for helping get the project up and running.

“It’s really because of her passion,” said Ms. Gambetti.

The college, which is providing the students with a stipend to work on the project, received an undisclosed, private donation from Assemblyman Matthew Mirones (R-East Shore/Brooklyn), who has also secured some state funding for the project.

However, to complete the restoration, the college needs to raise more money and are reaching out to various groups and organizations.

Michelle Maskaly is a news reporter for the Advance.

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