ECPN Interviews: Wooden Artifacts Conservation with Caite Sofield

To promote awareness and a clearer understanding of different pathways into specializations that require particular training, the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) has been conducting a series of interviews with conservation professionals in various specialties. We began the series with Chinese and Japanese painting conservation and continued the series by focusing on practitioners working with Electronic Media. Now, we are interviewing conservation professionals working in AIC’s Wooden Artifact Group (WAG). These conservators work with various wooden objects, which can range from furniture, musical instruments, waterlogged wood, frames, and more! We’ve asked our interviewees to share some thoughts about their career paths, hoping to inspire new conservation professionals and provide valuable insight into these areas of our professional field.

In our first interview from the WAG series, we spoke with Caite Sofield, a third year fellow in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). Caite is specializing in Furniture Conservation, and she is also a graduate intern in Furniture Conservation at The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). She received a Bachelor of Art in Italian Studies from Ithaca College, with a double minor in Art History and Classical Studies.

ECPN: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Caite Sofield (CS):  I am a third year graduate fellow in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC), specializing in Furniture Conservation. I am completing my internship year in Furniture Conservation at The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA).  I graduated from Ithaca with a B.A. in Italian Studies, and a double minor in Art History and Classical Studies. I grew up in New Hampshire and did much of my pre-program work in the New England area.

ECPN: How were you first introduced to conservation, and why did you decide to pursue conservation?

CS: My first introduction to conservation was during an undergraduate internship in London at the Leighton House Museum. Organized through the Art History Department of Ithaca College, my internship was divided between assisting the Curator of Collections and Research and working with a Conservation Cleaner in the Linley Sanbourne House, a historic property also managed by LHM.  I found this work dynamic and compelling, and was surprised to discover that I learned as much (if not more) about history from working in the house and on the objects than I did in my associated art history course. I was so excited to connect with history in this tangible way, and I knew that I wanted to seek similar experiences in the future.

ECPN: Of all specializations, what contributed to your decision to pursue furniture conservation?

CS: Furniture conservation appealed to me because furniture, as a subsection of decorative arts, can include a wide variety of materials, and there is a wonderful overlap between architecture, textiles, and objects. I love seeing the way the intended function of an object affects its design and how that changes over time. I am particularly fond of the forms that are highly specific and representative of a small window in time, like the voyeuse of the 18th century and the telephone table of the 20th century.

ECPN: What has been your training pathway?  Please list any universities, apprenticeships, technical experience, and any related jobs or hobbies.

CS: After my introduction to conservation in my junior year at Ithaca College, I began researching conservation programs and the prerequisites. I was only one course away from completing my degree requirements in Italian Studies at the time, so I used my available electives to start checking off the required courses I hadn’t taken yet, including the studio art and chemistry courses.  In my senior year, the heads of the Chemistry and Art History departments teamed up to teach a course called Chemistry and Art. This was a great overview of how much science affects art and gave me great perspective on why I needed to take chemistry courses to continue in the conservation field.

I continued working through the pre-reqs by completing non-degree coursework at St. Anselm College and the University of New Hampshire, near my hometown, while working as a veterinary assistant part-full time. Because I knew I was interested in furniture conservation, I sought out woodworking courses to fill the 3-dimensional design requirements. I did weekend and evening workshops, and a 10-week Furniture Making Intensive at the Homestead Woodworking School in Newmarket, NH.  Later in my pre-program path, I took the 12-week Furniture Intensive at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, ME.

My first pre-program internship was in the furniture lab at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. After that, I worked on an Asian lacquer project and outdoor sculpture at the Preservation Society of Newport County.  I volunteered at the New Hampshire Historical Society for a few months, documenting and re-housing embroidery samplers.  I returned to Newport for another six months to continue work on the outdoor sculpture project. My final pre-program internship was at the Collections Conservation Branch of the National Park Service.

While in the WUDPAC program, I have interned at the Furniture/Wooden Artifacts Lab of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and worked on archaeological documentation of furniture and architectural fragments of the Swedish battleship, Vasa, at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.

ECPN: Are there any particular skills that you feel are important or unique to your discipline? Can one solely be a ‘wooden artifact conservator,’ or is knowledge of composites and how to treat other materials inherent to the work?

CS: Knowledge of wood science and woodworking skills are hugely important to furniture conservation, as wood is the predominant material you will come across on a day-to-day basis.  I suppose one could solely be a ‘wooden artifact conservator’ if the collection needs supported it, but I am really interested in furniture more broadly, and for that, you need to have a working knowledge of other materials and surface techniques (ie: gilding, metals, leather and other organics, and stone). Because of the diverse materials a furniture conservator can encounter, I have actively sought out institutions with encyclopedic collections or projects that may indirectly relate to furniture to broaden my exposure.

ECPN: What are some of your current projects, research, or interests?

CS: I am working on two painted architectural panels from a period room at the PMA, which comprises painted wall paneling from a 17th century Parisian house.  They were removed from exhibition so that we could replace degrading 1950’s era silk wall coverings. Upon deinstallation, we discovered that one panel had structural damage from weakened wood around an undocumented repair. In addition to the treatment, the curator would also like to have some technical analysis completed to begin the process of researching all of the painted paneling in the room.  One of my favorite parts of working in an active lab in a very busy museum is that there are always new and interesting projects coming through or unexpectedly popping up!

One wall of the gallery with the degrading silk (left). The same wall with the new fabric and trim. (right). [Photos: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]
One wall of the gallery with the degrading silk (left). The same wall with the new fabric and trim. (right). [Photos: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]

ECPN: In your opinion, what is an important research area or need in your specialization?

CS: As I mentioned before, I am fascinated by the way that function affects design in the furniture field but also how changes in technology influenced changes in design.  I love how the use of tubular steel in the Bauhaus movement revolutionized furniture production and how the development of foam technologies all but eliminated tradition horsehair and sprung upholstery. There has been plenty of research into the care and treatment of these materials, but it’s an area that I personally would like to explore further.

One of the small panels taken down for treatment and technical examination. [Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]
One of the small panels taken down for treatment and technical examination. [Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]
ECPN: Do you have any advice for prospective emerging conservators who would like to pursue this specialization?

CS: That is a tough question. In most regards furniture conservation is like any other specialty, but I think one thing I’ve learned is the value of trying other things and all specialties.  As I reflect on my pre-program experience and approach the end of my graduate program, I am struck by how each of my classmates thrive in their respective specialties; what seems routine for them is awe-inspiring for me, and vice versa.  By exploring other specialties (and other career paths) I have found an area that fits.  I love historic costumes, but thread counts and invisible stitches make my head hurt. I had a blast working on outdoor sculpture, but the science of stone is really confusing to me.  When I talk about a structural repair, or I am dealing with tented veneers, my classmates are overwhelmed.  But, by working in different specialties and learning as much as I can within the field, I can appreciate the skill and knowledge of others and know where to look, or to whom to turn, when I run into a material with which I am less familiar.

ECPN: Please share any last thoughts or reflections.

CS: I found it very useful to have woodworking experience before I started the WUDPAC program.  It is no longer a requirement of admission as a furniture major, nor do you have to declare a major at the time of admission; however, if it something you are drawn to, having some of those skills in hand will be advantageous down the line. One doesn’t have to be a master craftsman to conserve objects, but a working knowledge of techniques and troubleshooting will only help in care and treatment decisions.


*Featured image: Caite during the installation of new fabric in the gallery. [Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Jason Wierzbicki.]




AIC Sustainability Committee Seeks New Professional Member

AIC Sustainability Committee Seeks New Professional Member

Term: June 2017 – May 2019

The Sustainability Committee seeks a new professional member to join our dynamic, interdisciplinary team. The position is open to interim year members, Associates, PAs, and Fellows from any conservation specialty.

Committee goals:

  • Provide resources for AIC members and other caretakers of cultural heritage regarding environmentally sustainable approaches to preventive care and other aspects of conservation practice. Resources may be provided via electronic media, workshops, publications and presentations  
  • Define research topics and suggest working groups as needed to explore sustainable conservation practices and new technologies


  • Monthly telephone conference calls with the committee member.
  • Research, write, and edit the AIC Wiki Sustainability pages
  • Participate in researching and writing group presentations, publications, blog posts,
    and social media posts
  • Contribute to development of and plan for the Sustainability Session at the AIC
    Annual Meeting
  • Initiate and support committee projects to increase awareness of sustainable practices
    in the conservation community
  • Collaborate with related AIC committees, networks, and working groups

Membership Parameters:

  • The committee is comprised of 8 voting members
  • Members serve for two years with an additional two-year term as an option
  • One member is a conservation graduate student
  • One member serves as chair for two years
  • During the second year of the chair’s term, another member serves as chair designate, assisting with and learning the chair’s responsibilities
  • As needed, corresponding (non-voting) members and non-AIC experts will be invited to guide research on special topics

To Apply:

Please submit a statement of purpose (1 page maximum length) and resume by May 15, 2017 to:

Geneva Griswold, Committee Vice-Chair (

Frank Matero to be presented with Preservation Achievement Award

Congratulations to AIC PA Frank Matero of the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Conservation Laboratory on being the recipient of the 2017 James Biddle Award for Lifetime Achievement in Stewardship! The award is given by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, in recognition of his extraordinary work in historic preservation.

Paul Steinke, Alliance Executive Director, stated, “Frank is historic preservation’s Indiana Jones. In 37 years of teaching and practice, he has aided the conservation of archaeological sites in the Middle East, South America, and North America; led building teams in the restoration of the Guggenheim Museum, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Ellis Island; and inspired hundreds of students at PennDesign to go forth and conserve.”

To learn more about the award, click here:

2016-17 ECPN Committee — Open Officer Positions

Are you an emerging conservator who wants to advocate for the interests of other emerging conservators? If so, then please consider one of the open officer positions on AIC’s Emerging Conservation Professionals Network Committee:
-Vice Chair
-Professional Education and Training Officer
-Communications Officer
-Outreach Officer
All positions will serve for a one year term, beginning in June 2016 just after AIC’s 44th Annual Meeting. New officers will have the option of renewal for a second year, except for the Vice Chair who will be expected to move into the Chair position after the first year, for a one year term.
To learn more about ECPN, please visit:
Position descriptions should be requested and any questions directed to Michelle Sullivan at To apply, please submit a brief statement of interest and your resume to Michelle Sullivan, ECPN Vice Chair, by April 15, 2016.

Kress-Funded Publication: Alice Boccia Paterakis Recently Published by Archetype Publications

Kress-Funded Publication: Alice Boccia Paterakis Recently Published by Archetype Publications

Alice Boccia Paterakis, Director of Conservation at the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology in Turkey, was the recipient of Kress Publication Funding in 2001. Her resulting book, Volatile Organic Compounds and the Conservation of Inorganic Materials, has been recently published in paperback format by Archetype Publications. Alice’s research into the topic allowed her to observe and record conditions in various museum collections; in the text she discusses appropriate treatments, storage, and monitoring based on her research into the indoor pollutants found in museums and galleries. For more information, contents, or to purchase, please follow this link:
This makes 23 published works since 1994 by authors awarded FAIC/Samuel H. Kress Conservation Publication Fellowships. Forty-two total awards have been given, and many of those who are not yet published currently are working with publishers. The fellowships have made an outstanding impact on the field of conservation and FAIC is committed to the production and dissemination of reference works for conservation professionals. For more information on the FAIC/Samuel H. Kress Conservation Publication Fellowships and recipients, visit:

CENIM-CSIC Research Group seeks to survey Professionals

We are a research group from the CENIM-CSIC and we are carrying out a study about the methods of cleaning and protection of historical lead.
As part of this study, we want to know the methods more applied by professionals and their personal experience about them.
The survey should take 10-15 minutes and it is available in the next link.  Please feel free to pass it on.
If you are interested in the results, please leave your email in the section of contact details.  If you want more information, please feel free to contact me at  Thank you in advance for your collaboration.
Dr. Teresa Palomar Sanz
Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Metalalurgicas (CENIM) Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientaficas (CSIC)

Henry Lie of Harvard Art Museums announces retirement

Henry Lie examining the interior of a bronze leg.
Henry Lie examining the interior of a bronze leg.

Henry Lie, Conservator of Objects and Sculpture at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Harvard Art Museums has announced his retirement in July of this year. After obtaining his graduate training at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, interning at the Walters Art Museum, and working on archeological excavations in England, Cyprus and Israel, Henry came to the Art Museums as a fellow in the Objects and Sculpture Lab in 1980. This represented a return to Harvard, where he came to love the collections while completing his A.B. in Fine Arts in 1976. He was named Director of Conservation in 1990 and served in that capacity through 2014.
In the 1980’s, when the department was heavily invested in work for outside institutions, Henry contributed to the national debate on the cleaning and preservation of outdoor bronzes, participating in the Save Outdoor Sculpture initiative in Washington, D.C., and leading the objects lab in treating many large scale bronze monuments, in the Boston metropolitan area, New England and at Harvard. Also during this period, Henry and his staff worked on a number of monumental mounting and restoration treatments including the Assyrian relief sculptures at Dartmouth, Bowdoin and Middlebury colleges and the Antioch mosaic at Smith College. The disassembly and treatment of Harvard’s marble of the emperor Trajan in the Fogg’s shipping room was one of his first treatment projects as a staff member and in part led to the lab’s involvement in other large-scale work.
Henry was an early promoter of computer imaging in the service of technical documentation and with technical art historian Ron Spronk developed improved methods of infrared image capture and mosaicing and layering of IRR, X-ray and color images using off-the-shelf software, which they presented internationally and used extensively in the Museums’ Mondrian: Transatlantic Paintings catalog. He was invited by the Getty Conservation Institute to contribute to meetings of the Conservation Imaging Consortium seeking to encourage the development of new digital tools for technical studies. He was also an author for Robin Thomes’s Object ID: Guidelines for Making Records That Describe Art, Antiques and Antiquities from Getty Publications, in which he advanced simple systems for distinguishing artifacts using aspects of their physical attributes.
Henry and Narayan Khandekar worked with the Andrew W. Mellon foundation in 2001 to define the Museum’s Post-Graduate Fellowship in Conservation Science. Georgina Rayner is the current and fifth three-year fellow and the program has now been endowed as the Beale Family Post-Graduate Fellowship in Conservation Science.
During his tenure, Henry led conservation department-taught undergraduate and graduate courses in the department of the History of Art and Architecture entitled “HAA 101, The Materials of Art” and “HAA 206 Science and the Practice of Art History.” Hundreds of students took these popular seminar courses while Henry was director. Applying the resources and collections at hand, he and his staff encouraged students to handle and look closely at objects, and try the tools, materials, and techniques used to make and examine art. He demonstrated and taught students to look and think critically and creatively. He says that one of his greatest joys at the Museums was assembling groups of bronze casts for the class and using them one-on-one with individual students to help explain the intricacies of the fabrication process. Concurrent with teaching students at Harvard, Henry led his staff in the department’s rich tradition of training conservation fellows in the Straus Center’s advanced-level training program.
Henry considers himself fortunate to have had the chance to contribute to several exhibition catalogs. Working with Carol Mattusch of George Mason University, he provided the technical chapter and entries for bronzes in The Fire of Hephaistos: Large Classical Bronzes in North American Collections catalog in 1996. Four years later he again collaborated with Carol on the study of sculptures from the National Archeological Museum, Naples, to produce Carol’s book, The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, Life and afterlife of a Sculpture Collection. In 1999 Henry authored technical chapters and with Ivan Gaskell co-edited Sketches in Clay for Projects by Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Theoretical, Technical, and Case Studies. Tony Sigel’s description of Bernini’s working methods in this catalog served as a springboard for his important subsequent work on these Bernini models and those in other collections. After a one week whirlwind tour of Italy and Switzerland in 2002 with Harry Cooper and independent scholar, Sharon Hecker, Henry provided a technical chapter for Harry’s book, Medardo Rosso, Second Impressions, describing the artist’s unusual working methods. Most recently he has had the opportunity to provide hundreds of technical entries for Susanne Ebbinghaus’s catalog of ancient bronzes. He points out, with some degree of pain, that this included drilling small samples for analysis from over eight hundred of these objects. With Francesca Bewer, Henry wrote a chapter for the catalog of these bronzes, Ex Aere Factum: Technical Notes on Ancient Bronzes.
Henry has received several awards for his work over the years:

  • College Art Association/National Institute for Conservation Joint Award for Excellence in Conservation, 1997
  • Samuel H. Kress Paired Fellowship for Research in Conservation and Art History/Archaeology, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, 1998
  • College Art Association 2006 Charles Rufus Morey Award for The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, Life and afterlife of a Sculpture Collection, Carol C. Mattusch with Henry Lie, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2005

–Harvard Art Museums

2014 IIC Forbes Prize Lecturer Announced

The Organising Committee requests the honour of your presence at the 2014 Forbes Prize Lecture at the forthcoming IIC 2014 Hong Kong Congress Opening Ceremony! The Forbes Prize Lecture will be delivered on Monday 22nd September at Hong Kong City Hall, the main venue for the Congress.  The IIC Congress will take place from 22nd to 26th September, 2014.
Dr-Jixiang-ShanThe Forbes Prize Lecture is one of the most important awards in the field of conservation and the lecture is delivered by a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. This year IIC’s Council has been delighted to announce that Dr. Jixiang Shan (單霽翔博士), Director of the Palace Museum in Beijing, will be delivering the 2014 lecture.
Dr Shan was formerly the Director-General of China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) before his appointment as the Palace Museum Director in 2012. Dr Shan graduated from the School of Architecture of Tsinghua University with a Doctor of Engineering degree in urban planning.  Since then, Dr Shan has been a pioneer in China’s historic preservation movement and has developed his profound research interest in urban planning towardsseeking the preservation of cities of historic and cultural importancein an era that has witnessed an ever-accelerating pace of urbanization. In 2005, Dr Shan received an International Leadership Award from the American Planning Association, honouring his outstanding efforts and achievements in the field.
During his term of office at SACH, Dr. Shan has promoted China’s heritage preservation development by launching nationwide surveys of heritage sites and setting up a legal conservation framework through the introduction of National Cultural Relics Protection Law. His efforts have led to the successful implementation of many major heritage conservation projects, as well as the partnership with World Monuments Fund to restore the Qianlong Gardenand other renovation projects in the Palace Museum. Focusing on the Museum’s ancient complex of buildings and gardens, its unique collections of artifacts and objects, and on the safety and guidance of visitors, Dr Shan implemented the “Secure Palace Museum” Project in 2012. Looking forward, he is committed to nurturing future museum and conservation professionals, and resolving the limitations on museum development within the Forbidden City, with a view to passing down this splendid site to the generations of the next 600 years.
More details of the IIC 2014 Hong Kong Congress can be found at the IIC web-site:

AIC Cuba Trip Travelog Part 3

29 January 2014 (Day Six)
Travel_Cuba_20140129103712In the morning, we meet our guide for the next few days, Nancy Benitez , the former director of the City’s Conservation department and an active voice in preservation in the city.  We tour historic center of Trinidad, Cuba’s second UNESCO World Heritage site and a bastion of Caribbean vernacular earthen architecture.  We toured historic mansions now turned into museums, including the Palacio Cantero and the architecture museum, as well as public squares where pilot conservation projects have been carried out, and visits to a couple private homes representing all stages of preservation of the regional art and architecture.  After lunch at El Jigue, the group travelled to Manacas Iznaga historic sugar plantation, founded by Bayamo residents and comprising one of the most important sites in the rural southern coast of Cuba.  It’s part of the UNESCO world heritage site of Trinidad and the Valley of the Sugar Mills. After the tour, we ended day with a cocktail, la canchanchara, a drink made from honey, lime and aguardiente (brady) and made famous in the 1860s by Mambises, Cuban freedom fighters, who were battling Spain for Independence. We had the drink at a bar of the same name and which happens to be the oldest building in the city, dating from the early 17th century.
30 January 2014 (Day Seven)
Travel_Cuba_20140129122802Early in the morning, we departed Trinidad for the Caribbean colonial city of Cienfuegos. Before getting to the town, we stop along the way at the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, which was founded by Harvard botanists in the very first years of the 20th century and home to more than 2000 species of plants on 240 acres of land just outside the city. After the gardens, we visited the historic center of Cienfuegos, guided by its chief preservation architect, Iran Millan.  During the tour, we visited the Parque Martí, center of the city, and see several important buildings including the 1889 Tomas Terry Theater, one of Cuba’s three exemplary 19th century regional theaters. After the tour, we had lunch in at Villa Lagarto, which sits at the end of the in the point that juts out into the Bay of Cienfuegos.  After we lunch, we departed Cienfuegos for Havana, but this time we were able to take Cuba’s one and only high speed roadway, the Autopista Nacional, which stretches from Havana to the small town of Taguasco in the center of the country and where it abruptly stops (ie the money ran out). Rarely is any traffic encountered on it, and we arrived at our hotel in Havana after a short four hour bus ride…made a little shorter after we “opened of the bar.”
31 January 2014 (Day Eight)
Chief of Mission ReceptionAfter many of us awakened to a view of the bright blue waters of the Straits of Florida outside the windows on the Malecόn side of our hotel, the Hotel Nacional, we began our time in Havana with a tour of the four main colonial plazas of Old Havana, Cuba’s first and most significant UNESCO World Heritage site, starting at the Plaza de Armas, where we will see the oldest Spanish fortress in the Americas, a Greco- Roman style Neo-classical temple that marks the spot where the first mass and town council meeting were held in 1519, and the Palace of the Captains Generals, seat of government from 1776-1930. From there we went to the Plaza de le Catedral before going to Plaza de Francisco and ending at the Plaza Mayor, where we had lunch at a restaurant called Santo Angel. After lunch, we went back to the hotel where we quickly freshen up for our visit to the residence of the Chief of Mission of the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland, where we were received by the Chief of Mission (“Ambassador”), who updated on the current policy of the United States towards Cuba. We were then able to explain the nature of our trip and plans for future engagement with Cuban conservation professionals before posing for a photograph to commemorate the occasion.  To celebrate the gradual thawing of relations between our two countries and toast to future progress, the group after the reception retreated to El Floridita bar, where we partook in some liquid refreshment, much like Hemingway did when the bar was one of his favorite watering holes. Popularizing a drink known as the daiquiri by notoriously downing many of the cocktails himself, Hemmingway concocted her own preferred version, which calls for grapefruit instead of lime juice and maraschino liquor instead of simple syrup and which they still blend up batches of for tourists who come to pay homage to the author who now lends his name to the drink.  Dinner that night was at San Cristobal, one of the top private restaurants in the city.
1 February 2014 (Day Nine)
Travel_Cuba_20140201152213After a visit the Decorative Arts Museum, we took a walking tour of Centro Habana, which centered on the Parque Central area, stopping at such sites as the Capitolio, Hotel Inglaterra, Bacardi’s glazed terracotta-clad Art Deco headquarters, Sloppy Joe’s bar, and the Paseo del Prado—all of which shows the development which occurred outside the walls in the 19th century. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop for a quick drink at the old Barcardi, where they do actually serve up rum-based drinks–none of which, it almost goes without saying, are made with liquor  under the label of the same name. However, that was okay, because we had to get to lunch at Ajiaco in the lovely little fishing town of Cojímar just outside the city. Cojímar is also home to Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s house, which we toured later that day.
2 February 2014 (Day Ten)
Travel_Cuba_20140202151052In the morning, we visited the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes with a tour of the Cuban modern art collections by one of the museum’s curators. The museum is in a striking modernist building which was completed in 1953 and exemplifies the combination of sculpture with architecture in Cuban mid-century modernism.  We then visited Havana’s Cementerio de Colόn. Laid out between 1871 and 1886, the cemetery includes more than 500 mausoleums, chapels and family vaults, sculpted in bronze, granite, marble and limestone by leading Cuban and European artists. After the cemetery, we went to the Plaza de la Revolucion before making our way to the hotel Riviera, a perfectly preserved masterpiece of mid-century modern architecture. To cap of our mid-20th century-themed morning, we had lunch at paladar called Vista al Mar, which is in a beautiful oceanfront house overlook the Straits of Florida in Havana’s famed Miramar neighborhood. The rest of the afternoon, the group went to the craft market at Antiguos Almacenes San José or explored the city on their own. The group gathered at the paladar Atelier that night before going to Tropicana.
3 February 2014 (Day Twelve)
Travel_Cuba_20140202123331On our last full day in Cuba, we had a chance to visit the Cuba’s national art school, El Instituto Superior de Arte or “ISA.” Built in 1961 on the grounds of a former golf club, the school was one of the earliest and now recognized best public works projects begun by the Revolucion. A personal project of both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, the art school reflects the flush of utopian idealism that characterized the revolutionary movement at that moment in its history. Only later in the decade, when Cuba adopted a more Soviet-style functionalist approach, did the art schools begin their decline—all of which is detailed in the recent documentary “Unfinished Spaces.”  Because Cuba now allows artists and musicians to earn a living in hard currency (CUCs) abroad and keep most of it themselves, these professions have become some of the top professions in the country, making placements at the art school some of the most coveted in the country among its young people. This has brought about a resurgence for the school—not to mention, it also makes for great art, which you can buy from students at the school. After lunch at El Aljibe, known for its amazing roasted chicken, the afternoon was free for the group to spend on its own. Some took a ride in one of the old American convertibles from the 50s. Others took a dip in the hotel’s pool, and others who had not yet dropped from all the shopping thus far went to spend their remaining foreign currency. Dinner that night was in the famed paladar La Guarida, which in addition to being one of the oldest in Havana was also the set of the seminal masterpiece of Cuba cinema, Strawberry and Chocolate. Made in the early 90s, the film takes place in Havana, Cuba in 1979 and  tells the story of a growing friendship between a university student and a gay cultural functionary unhappy with the Castro regime’s treatment of the LGBT community as well as the censorship of culture.  The film fundamentally changed the way Cubans both inside and outside the government viewed their LGBT comrades, paving the way for the pro-LGBT reforms currently being considered in the government today.
4 February 2014 (Day Thirteen)
Travel_Cuba_20140204164118All good trips end far too soon, and ours ended early, early in the morning after we checked of the hotel and headed to the airport where we would spend a few hours before boarding a very short charter flight back to Miami and back to reality. Perhaps because of the time warp that is Cuba or the breakneck pace that is our modern, American way of life, our time on the island, though impossible to forget, would soon become a distant memory. As sad as this may sound, it is kind of the way most trips to this place go. The saving grace in this is that it just makes it easier to return, and return often, each and every time.

Japanese television documentary features Nishio Conservation Studio

Nishio Conservation Studio staff
Nishio Conservation Studio staff, from their website

Yoshi Nishio, Kyoichi Itoh and their conservation work at The Nishio Conservation Studio were featured in a one-hour TV documentary series, broadcast on the WOWOW Cable Channel (a channel similar to PBS in the US) in Japan on March 28th and 30th, and April 7. The documentary highlights technical aspects of Asian Painting Conservation, including the type of materials used, and how Asian Paintings are conserved using traditional techniques with a modern scientific approach at NCS. The program also showed how those Japanese paintings came to the US, as well as a feature on Yoshi Nishio as an artist, educator, musician and film maker. The documentary includes location footage of the Decatur House/White House Collection, Johns Hopkins Library, North East Document Conservation Center, and interviews with their conservators. This is the second time the Nishio Conservation Studio was featured on television in Japan. These broadcast programs increase public awareness of the importance of conservation. Numerous Japanese corporations support conservation outside of Japan. The video will be available on Youtube with English subtitles later this year.
–Submitted by Yoshi Nishio