Fundraiser planned for preservation of Portland's hidden art

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PORTLAND — The city and the nonprofit Maine Project for Fine Art Conservation are working to preserve unseen municipal art that has languished in City Hall.

On Nov. 16 at 5 p.m., the public can view progress on one of the conserved portraits in a State of Maine Room fundraiser.

The portrait of William Pitt Fessenden, a U.S. representative and senator who also served as secretary of the treasury under President Abraham Lincoln, has been cleaned and repaired in a Congress Street studio run by Domenico and Bonnie Mattozzi.

The studio is staffed by students and interns from local high schools and colleges.

“While it may be less glamorous than renowned and fashionable artworks in museums, the art we see in our city halls, public schools, and public libraries is the real ‘people’s art,’ Domenico Mattozzi said in a press release.

A portrait of former Gov. Percival P. Baxter is also part of the conservation project.

Spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the city would also like to conserve portraits of former Mayors George Wescott, Charles Libby, and Fredericke Boothby. More than a dozen paintings could be conserved, including a portrait of Cyrus H.K. Curtis, who donated the Kotzschmar Organ to the city. At least two of the paintings were discovered in the attic at City Hall.

The partnership with conservation project seeks to use private donations instead of taxpayer money. A fundraiser was held the University of New England in October 2015.

“The restoration project is not only a great opportunity for the city to reclaim a piece of its history, but a chance for Portland students to learn about the field of art conservation,” City Manager Jon Jennings said.

When conservation work is complete, the art will be displayed in City Hall with a presentation on the conservation process, Grondin said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

This portrait of William P. Fessenden, which is being restored, will be on display Nov. 16 at a City Hall fundraiser to benefit preservation of city-owned art.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.