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'Black Hawk' Restoration In Peril

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

The protective covering around a towering statue near Oregon has been removed.  But it’s not because the work is finished.  The restoration of the 105-year-old work by sculptor Lorado Taft is on hold. Backers of the repairs worry what will happen to it in the meantime.

Taft called his work “The Eternal Indian,” but most people call it “Black Hawk.” Frank Rausa and his wife have led the effort to restore Taft’s monumental statue. After years spent raising hundreds of thousands of dollars privately, the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue were promised a $350 thousand state grant.  Materials testing started, and it looked like the restoration might finally be finished this summer.  But Rausa says he’s still waiting for the state to release the grant.

“All of that’s on hold until a budget is approved, and then we’ve got to find out whether or not the funding is still there,” Rausa says. 

That’s not the end of it.  The contractors on the project haven’t been paid since last July. And things have taken a turn for the worse.

“We are extremely frustrated and disappointed that one, the budget impasse has not been resolved sooner, and secondly that other issues have entered into play which has unfortunately delayed the restoration efforts,” he says.

Rausa is referring to a disagreement between the conservator and the engineer over how the repairs to the statue should be made.  The conservator quit over how the state’s contract handled the dispute.  It was his scaffolding and wrapping that the state then ordered removed. 

Now Rausa worries that without protection from the elements, the badly weathered statue will suffer further degradation. 

Until the project can start up again, orange construction fence will keep people away from the statue. That’s to protect them from chunks that might fall off its cracked exterior.

The state says it’s hiring another conservator.  When that will happen is an open question. Whether the money for the restoration will be there is another.

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