Alma Mater sculpture may return to campus in April

URBANA, Ill. – A famous bronze sculpture could return to the University of Illinois campus in Champaign next month after undergoing a $360,000 restoration, officials said.

The 85-year-old Alma Mater statue of a robed woman flanked by figures celebrating “Learning” and “Labor” was removed for cleaning and restoration in August 2012. Since then, it has been undergoing extensive repairs to fix water damage and corrosion while removing a blue-green patina.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the five-ton piece will be returned to campus in April, although no official date has been set.

“It looks good. When people see the sculpture, they’ll be really pleased with the results,” said James Lev, chairman of the campus Architectural Review Committee. “When she’s cleaned up, she’s really got a very pretty face.”

During the project, workers in a Forest Park studio disassembled the piece, removing nearly 1,000 bolts that were used to hold 48 sections together.

Alma Mater was created in 1929 by artist Lorado Taft. It has stood at Wright and Green streets on campus since 1962, although the sculpture originally was installed behind Foellinger Auditorium.

Restoration has cost about $360,000 – more than triple the initial projection.