After a long and gradually losing battle with the elements and graffiti taggers, the herons sculpture at the Albany waterfront has been brought back to like-new condition by two Berkeley-based enterprises with Albany arts funding.
Rust had taken a toll on the three metal herons that greet visitors to the Albany Bulb and beach. The sculpture was created by El Cerrito artiist Mark Canepa in 1999.
"Kudos to Albany for stepping up on this one!" said Berkeley Choate of the 104-year-old Berkeley metal fabrication firm, Walter Mork Co., which won City Council approval in September for $7,000 in public arts funding for the job.
A major challenge was doing the work at the site, rather than taking the sculpture back to the comfort and convenience of the company's shop, Choate said. City engineers felt that moving the scuplture would require an expensive and difficult structural review, he said.
"So the work was done in place under challenging circumstances: cold, wind, moisture, salt in the air, all of which conspired to make a three week project into a three-month one," Choate told Patch by email.
Many rusted places were visible from the beginning, but a more serious threat to the sculpture was discovered afterward, Choate said.
"We found the rust where the sculpture was attached to the support posts to be so extensive that we feared that the Herons could fall over," he said. "Thick plates had to be welded in to encapsulate the compromised supports, and now it feels strong again."
The rust was removed and the missing and weakened metal restored. The extensive painting and waterproofing work was done under subcontract with Berkeley-based Lawrence Whalen Painting and Waterproofing, Choate said.
A bit more finishing work remains to be done, he said.
"The sculptures look finished as they sit, but our perfectionist painter – Lawrence (Larry) Whalen – has ordered additional paint with a slightly different finish (pearlescent rather than metallic) and wants to add an additional three coats," Choate said.
"Larry Whalen put more hours into the restoration than anyone," he added. "Next came master metalworker Jeff Silva. I’m just the facilitator."
Projects like this, Choate said, "are highlights of my professional life."