Gallery 344

A member of Cambridge Arts' annual conservation and maintenance program cleans DeWitt Godfrey's sculpture "Quake."

New Exhibition: How We Care For 280+ Public Artworks

How does Cambridge Arts maintain the City of Cambridge’s collection of more than 280 public artworks? “Rust Happen(s): Caring for the Public Art Collection" offers a behind-the-scenes look at the public art conservation program of the city’s arts agency. The exhibition debuts at Cambridge Arts’ Gallery 344 at 344 Broadway, Cambridge, on March 18, 2024, followed by a free, public reception on Monday, March 25, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibition continues through July 19, 2024.

The City of Cambridge approved a Percent-for-Art ordinance in 1979 and is one the rare communities in Massachusetts with this statutory commitment to public art and city staff devoted to its care. Cambridge’s ordinance requires that 1 percent of government construction costs be set aside for creating site-responsive public artwork. As a result, Cambridge has the largest municipal collection of contemporary public art in the region—and the maintenance responsibilities that come with it.

Outdoor public artworks face a range of challenges that can be surprisingly different from those inside the carefully controlled galleries of museums—rust, gum, spills, graffiti, storms and even truck accidents. “Rust Happen(s)" highlights the ingenuity and science and careful effort Cambridge Arts’ conservation team, led by Director of Art Conservation Craig Uram, uses to maintain these community treasures for the future.

Photos and videos will show our art conservators at work. The exhibition tells stories of how individual murals, mosaics and sculptures are cared for. It documents the annual repair of worn gold leaf on Konstantin Simun’s bronze tribute to Igor Fokin’s puppet DooDoo, which was created as a memorial to Fokin at the spot in Harvard Square where Fokin regularly performed before his death in 1996. The exhibition tells how wood beams were replaced in Vusumuzi Maduna’s “Inner City Totem I” after they rotted from being outside for four decades. See how a damaged mosaic, a missing bronze relief and a missing aluminum text-artwork have been refabricated. And wiring diagrams detail the operations of kinetic and digital artworks.

The exhibition also features tools of the trade—brushes, solvents, wax and patina kits, gold leaf, ladders, syringes, vacuums, pressure washers, graffiti removers, bio-enzymatic urine digester.

Cambridge Arts is always grateful when we hear from residents or visitors who notice public art that has been damaged or gone missing. We appreciate when people share their observations of their favorite public art sites. We hope this exhibition will prompt thoughts about the important role the community plays in ensuring art is an integral part of our public space.

Gallery 344
Cambridge Arts Council
City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor, Cambridge, MA

Gallery hours
Monday 8:30am - 8:00pm
Tuesday - Thursday 8:30am - 5:00pm
Friday 8:30am - 12:00pm
Saturday - Sunday closed

Gallery 344 is free and open to the public.

Cambridge Arts Council Public Art Program

In accordance with Cambridge's Public Art Program, one percent of construction costs for capital improvements is designated to support the inclusion of integrated, site-responsive public art. Since 1979, over 200 artworks have been commissioned into the Cambridge Public Art Collection for the enjoyment of all who live, work and visit the city.