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Handle with care

Next up in OKC’s ongoing investment in the arts: an art handler for its now-sizable collection.

Ben Felder April 2nd, 2014

Oklahoma City’s investment in public art continues as the city looks to contract with an art handler to work with its growing collection.

Robbie Kienzie
Photo: Shannon Cornman

Art pieces and sculptures often require specialized service when being repaired, installed or moved, and the Oklahoma City Council agreed last week to accept bids for an on-call art handler.

“There is a care that needs to be used with fine objects,” said Robbie Kienzle, the city’s liaison for art and cultural affairs. “We have to move pieces every once in awhile when we do renovations, and it requires an art handler.”

The city’s collection includes 54 pieces, but the list is growing, as 1 percent of funds for buildings and major renovations go toward art installations, per a city ordinance adopted in 2009. The relatively new ordinance, along with the creation of the arts liaison position two years ago, represents a growing commitment by City Hall to invest in art projects.

“I think Oklahoma City has just really embraced the idea that the arts are a critically important part of the quality of life we are creating here,” said Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer.

Salyer said obtaining the services of an art handler will continue to be important as many of the city’s new buildings and projects are completed in the coming years. A new police station, along with new city-owned buildings through MAPS 3, will be required to spend 1 percent of the construction budget on art.

“We are actually just at the baby steps to see the 1 percent for the arts come to fruition,” Salyer added.

The council’s vote will allow Kienzle to move forward to contract with an art handler. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has two fulltime art handlers, or preparators as they are called at the museum. OKCMOA also contracts with art handlers for other projects, said Maury Ford, the museum’s registrar.

“We’re really concerned with the long-term preservation of the art,” Ford said. “Having someone who is specifically trained in art handling kind of minimizes the risks involved in moving fragile pieces of art.”

The city hopes to provide the same care with its own collection of art.

“Art can be a delicate object and a heavy object; not everyone knows how to handle them properly,” Kienzle said.

“There is a care that needs to be used with fine objects. The citizens of Oklahoma City own these objects, which is why it’s important to care for them.”

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