Edmond’s Art Caretaker
Edmond is a town filled with art, especially bronze sculptures–and that artwork needs care and maintenance over time. Fortunately, Oklahoma is home to Steve Spinharney, a bronze restoration specialist who has become an authority on the ailments and preventative treatments of bronze artwork.
An Accidental Expert
“Outdoor bronzes are affected by Oklahoma’s harsh elements, plus abuse from animals, car fumes and people. The sun can hit one side and heat it up to 140°, but the other side feels cool. The temperature swings cause bronze to flex, so it needs a protective layer,” Steve said. He found that commercial products didn’t last very long, so over 18 years, I developed my own, proprietary ‘super wax’ that gets into the micropores of the bronze and sucks tight to the surface. When museum curators got wind of my work, they started spreading my name around. Soon, I was working for city parks, Woolaroc and the Gilcrease Museum.”
Steve became a bronze-restoration specialist by accident. He was a contractor doing tree work, rock and brickwork, and other maintenance projects. An art owner asked if he might try to repair a bronze statue. “I said I was up to the challenge, so he handed me a little book to read, and that’s how I got started,” Steve said.
The Biggest Bronzes
Although Steve lives in Tulsa, he treats bronzes all over Oklahoma. He spends a lot of time on ladders because some of the art is quite large. His largest is the 17-foot tall Pioneer Woman statue in Ponca City. Another large piece is the buffalo at Sapulpa, seen from I-44. “From the highway, it looks about 6-inches tall—but it’s actually 15-feet high! That one is made of over 10,000 pounds of bronze.”
“One of my biggest water projects is Bruins’ Riverpark Picnic, a Tulsa sculpture of four bears playing on a rock fountain. It’s 35-feet across and 3,000 gallons of water rush over that statue every day. Bronze water features are beautiful, but they create a whole new set of challenges. As water evaporates, minerals stay, so I use a ping hammer to remove the layers, and then buff and add my protective wax.”
The Small and the Ancient
Private individuals also seek Steve’s help for their personal art collections. “I once had a guy somehow run his car over a tabletop-sized horse! It was twisted and the horse’s feet broke off,” Steve said. “I have one client with a unique piece from the 13th century. It’s hand-pounded, almost more brass than bronze, but it is still stable after six hundred years. It’s cool to work on something that old.”
Saving Edmond’s Art
The City of Edmond hired Steve to maintain its collection of art pieces in 2013. Steve now spends three months of each year doing repairs and preventative maintenance on Edmond’s 200+ art pieces. Because he has family in the area, Steve comes to town and stays a few days at a time throughout the year. He knows each sculpture by name and by history— which includes how many times a bronze has suffered damage or graffiti, where it gets touched the most, and even which pieces dogs urinate upon the most.
Because Steve is an artist at heart, he views each piece for its unique, artistic existence. “I’ve come to know them so well that they become my little children over the years. They are MY bronzes, and I feel great about taking care of them. But really, they are in our parks and part of our society, so they’re OUR bronzes. I’m protecting OUR art.”
Visit www.BronzeStatueCleaning.com to learn more.