Kristin Cheronis’s lab, in northeast Minneapolis, looks like an old hospital room, filled with wooden file cabinets laden with medical-type cutting tools and a wheelie tray full of liquid-filled jars she jokingly calls her dessert cart. And, in a sense, this is a place where the broken are made whole again, only it’s art not people who are served.
How did you come to be a conservator—one who saves, preservers, fixes art?
KC: I originally studied archaeology—I worked in Amman, Jordan, and came to art conservation through archaeological conservation. I loved the intersection of art and science.
What are the main reasons you’re called to service public art in particular?
KC: Freezing and thawing cracks art open, acid snow, hail, high winds, tree limbs, snow removal—sculptures are often rammed by snowplows. And then there’s a whole category I call “under the influence.” I see four or five sculptures hit by cars every year in Minnesota. In Irvine Park in St. Paul, someone drove a car down some steps to slam into a fountain.
When you’re working outdoors, how do people interact with you?
KC: People often ask, “Did you just put this [sculpture] up?” They’ve walked by this sculpture for years and just noticed it. They’ll yell out of cars. They’ll offer what they think of it. Public art is kind of a Rorschach test.
What sculptures spur the most interaction?
KC: Mary Tyler Moore, by far. Every five minutes, someone takes a picture of her. People sing to her. They’ve evidently thrown up on her. Foreigners always ask me who she is, and I say, “Well, you’re in America—she was a television star.”
What kind of art endures?
KC: Bronze and granite, certainly. But also popular art—if a work of art is loved, it endures. People actually physically attack art they don’t like.