Sculpture relocated during medical school construction


Shelby Tauber

Construction workers remove one of the “Three Muses” statues located in Centennial Park on Red River Street on Monday morning.

Alex Wilts

Charles Umlauf’s “Three Muses” sculptures received a new temporary home Monday after being removed from Centennial Park on Red River Street to make way for the construction of the Dell Medical School.

The sculptures were moved to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, where they will undergo restoration until being moved back to campus in 2016, the scheduled completion year for the medical school.

University Operations spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said the construction plans include straightening out Red River Street, while parts of the school will be built over a section of the Frank Erwin Center’s parking lot and Centennial Park, where an underground time capsule is also located.

“[The time capsule] will have to be preserved,” Weldon said. “All of this is going to somehow be incorporated back into the medical district when it’s complete.”

Robert Boland, business manager for Vault Fine Arts Services, the company in charge of transporting the sculptures to the museum, said the moving process involved separating the figures from the external portion of the base, securing them to boards and wrapping each sculpture to ensure that their surfaces are protected. According to Boland, it is a simple method.

“You have to know what you’re moving and how it’s built, [especially] the weight-balance,” Boland said. “I guess it’s more technical than anything.”

Weldon said the University has not made the decision as to where the sculptures will reside at the completed medical school. Museum curator Katie Robinson said she hopes Umlauf’s work will be placed in an area away from trees, where it can be easily seen by the public.

“The trees encourage birds, and guano — [bird droppings] — is really damaging to the surface,” Robinson said. “We would like to get them out into a place where we could keep the [protective] wax on.”

Umlauf created the muses, inspired by Greek mythology, in 1963 while he was an art professor at the University. According to Robinson, the sculptures were originally on the roof of what is now the Peter T. Flawn Academic Center but were moved to Centennial Park in 1984. Since then, people have vandalized the sculptures by doing the makeup of the Muses and painting their nails.

“We want people to know not just about Umlauf’s sculptures, but that all sculpture and all art has a life and can be damaged and needs to be cared for,” Robinson said.