City Commission Accepts Donation of Birger Sandzen's 'Smoky River' to Public Art Collection

City Commission Accepts Donation of Birger Sandzen's 'Smoky River' to Public Art Collection

In a decision at Monday's City Commission Meeting, commissioners deliberated on a resolution authorizing the inclusion of the gifted oil painting, "Smoky River" by renowned artist Birger Sandzen, into the City of Salina's public art collection.

The journey of this significant artwork began when the Salina Public Library auctioned off two Birger Sandzen oil paintings on October 14, stirring community discussions about preserving these historical pieces. A petition, signed by over 400 concerned citizens, emphasized the importance of retaining the Sandzen paintings within Salina's cultural tapestry.

"Smoky River," a 30" x 40" masterpiece, was acquired by the Karen Hale Young Family, who expressed their intent to donate the painting to honor the strong commitment to the arts made by the citizens of Salina and Salina Arts & Humanities. The family emphasized that the artwork should remain in the public collection and be showcased for the benefit of both Salina's residents and visitors.

Salina Arts & Humanities, responsible for an extensive public art collection, highlighted the unique challenges posed by incorporating the Sandzen painting. With a completion date in 1921, the artwork's very good condition was affirmed by the auction house. However, minor imperfections such as craquelure and scratches were noted, necessitating careful handling.

The painting, currently insured by the owner, underwent inspection by Arts & Humanities staff and Curator Cori North from the Birger Sandzen Memorial Art Gallery. While recommending eventual restoration, North suggested utilizing the gallery's transport to a Denver-based conservation specialist to minimize costs.

Financial Aspects:
The donor, recognizing the need for potential conservation, pledged $5,000 to cover estimated costs for restoration and reframing. The City will hold these funds until the work can be scheduled for conservation, likely within the next 12-18 months.

Display and Security:
If accepted, "Smoky River" will initially grace the entry gallery of the Smoky Hill Museum. The proposed location ensures secure access, proper lighting, environmental controls, and supervision, with motion-sensitive alarms and video surveillance in place. Museum staff supports this choice, affirming the stability of oil paintings and their lesser requirements for humidity and UV light controls.

Fiscal Considerations:
The City will receive a post-auction appraisal, estimated at $140,000, once the painting is accepted. Annual insurance costs are projected at $500. While there are no acceptance fees, estimates for repair, cleaning, and reframing range from $3,500 to $4,500, with the donor covering these conservation expenses.

The motion to approve the acceptance of the Birgen Sandzen painting was approved 5-0.

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