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Dome - Rehabilitating ‘The Great Ascension’

May 2011

Rehabilitating ‘The Great Ascension’

Date: May 20, 2011

Great Ascension sculpure by Beverly Pepper is dismantled
Workmen carefully dismantle a sculpture by artist Beverly Pepper to send it to Virginia for restoration. It will return this summer.
photo by Keith Weller

"The Great Ascension" will soar again this summer. Meanwhile, the monumental steel-beam sculpture that adorns the McElderry Street entrance to Hopkins Hospital’s Outpatient Center has been removed to undergo much-needed restoration.

Created by American artist Beverly Pepper and donated to the hospital in 1985 by the late Robert and Ryda Levi, modern art collectors and longtime Hopkins benefactors, the sculpture required maintenance after 26 years spent outside. Originally placed in front of the hospital’s main entrance on Wolfe Street, it was moved in 2005 to the entrance most frequently used by the growing number of patients receiving treatment at the Outpatient Center. 

By then, the sculpture’s white paint was flaking off, rust spots were appearing and moisture was rusting its interior, according to Andrew Harrison, cultural properties archivist for the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives. Measuring 59 feet by 15½ feet by 18 feet, the sculpture weighs approximately 20,000 pounds. “It was sinking unevenly into the ground because there was no permanent base built underneath it,” Harrison says.

When two of the Levis’ children expressed concern about the sculpture’s condition, archivist Nancy McCall and the staff of the Chesney Archives, which manages the hospital’s cultural properties collection, arranged for sculpture conservator Constance Stromberg to assess the artwork’s status and estimate the cost of its restoration. James Sejd of the American Stripping Company will rehabilitate the sculpture in Manassas, Va., under Stromberg’s supervision. Hopkins Hospital will pay for the work as well as for the design and placement of a base for the piece.

The sculpture will be reinstalled in front of the Outpatient Center by July.

Neil Grauer