BizRESTORATION continued from page 55 towers – combined with the unique masonry-vaulted roof, ornate façade and heavily frescoed interior – show a mix of New Spain and Native American craftsmanship unrivaled in the Southwest. Proactive Patronatos
This shrine of both pilgrimage and tourism became a National Historic Landmark in 1963, even as years of earthquake, lightning strikes, vandalism and well-intentioned conservation efforts were causing serious damage. Earlier restorations by the Diocese of Tucson tried to stave decay with new coats of white plaster – but layers of cement stucco and concrete blocks only seemed to cause fissures and lock in moisture, which penetrated the walls, eating away at the structure and its artworks. Realizing that the need to fix the structural roof problems was urgent, a handful of Patronato Tucsonans rallied the community to obtain funds and begin crisis conservation. Bernard Fontana, an ethnologist with the Arizona State Museum who lived nearby the mission, was a Patronato leader in this process. Art conservator and art historian Gloria Fraser Giffords made initial studies to document conditions and outline recommendations. Emergency restoration to fix water infiltration in the west tower began in 1989, supervised by Patronato member and architect Robert Vint. Morales Restoration and Builders, a local family of contractors that has worked on the San Xavier mission for five generations, joined the team – and employed a traditional technique using layers of lime and sand plaster bound by the juice extracted from prickly pear cactus to stabilize the structure. Then, conservators from New York, Italy, Spain, London and Turkey were contracted to oversee the cleaning and repair of the church’s interior paintings and sculptures. To move the project forward, the Tucson office of Snell & Wilmer law firm stepped in to guarantee the www.BizTucson.com
salaries for the curatorial team. Snell & Wilmer continues to provide financial, in-kind and volunteer leadership assistance. The major interior conservation effort, begun in 1992, also employed local Tohono O’odham conservator apprentices – one of whom, with his wife, still monitors the repairs. The west tower restoration was completed in 2009, protecting the integrity of most of the church structure. This is a multi-million dollar, painstaking restoration project, working inch-by-inch to repair and refinish the historic mission, said Vern Lamplot, executive director of the Patronato. “The Patronato has raised more than $10 million to prevent further deterioration, but there are still problems to address,” he said.
The mission is a national treasure at our doorstep. It’s clear that this place of great meaning needs our vigilance. –
Lori W. Carroll President, Lori Carroll & Associates Publicity Chair, Silver & Turquoise Ball Chuck Albanese President, Patronato San Xavier
Chuck Albanese, President, Patronato San Xavier
Patronato president Albanese said, “Our respect for the integrity of the restoration has led us to blend traditional techniques with the highest standards of modern conservation.” The architect, artist and former University of Arizona dean sees this meticulous process as a happy marriage of highest tech and purest tradition in an unceasing, necessary effort. Restoring a Solitary Gem
The restoration revealed a dazzling array of elaborately decorated wall paintings, statues and Mexican folk baroque details. There are contemporary Native American designs continued on page 58 >>>
Jackie Ludwig Director of Tourism, Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau Chair, Silver & Turquoise Ball Jeff Willis Partner, Snell & Wilmer Member, Patronato San Xavier Spring 2013 > > > BizTucson 57
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