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Archive for Sunday, September 13, 2009

Opera House restorations stretch into ‘final phase’

September 13, 2009

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— A 22-year project to restore the McPherson Opera House and fix a mural inside is finally coming to an end.

Topeka-based Belle Restoration and four other artists are restoring a mural by late Lindsborg artist G.N. Malm and other elements in the McPherson Opera House auditorium.

“We’re in the final phase, the total rehabilitation of the auditorium and the arts center beneath it,” said John Holecek, executive director of the McPherson Opera House Company.

The Belle Restoration team is using conservation techniques to preserve and restore the mural signed by Malm. The 488-seat auditorium will also serve as a full-service convention center.

Paul Hotchkiss, owner of Belle Restoration, has been working on the decorative painting for four weeks. Holecek said all work on the opera house will be complete by the end of this year.

“I think jaws are going to drop when they walk in here,” he said.

The Malm mural is being clean, stabilized and retouched with the latest technology.

Hotchkiss describes the auditorium decoration as a combination of “Victorian original look,” with deep vibrant colors from late 1880s and a 1913 look when Malm redecorated the opera house.

Malm used his own stencil design to redecorate the theater. He published two different books of stencils and distributed them broadly.

The 1888 auditorium features a “very intimate performance space,” Holecek said. “Most people have never seen anything like this.”

The building was in a dilapidated state when a local preservation effort was launched in 1988.

“The original goal was just to preserve the building and save it from demolition,” Holecek said. “Then that goal changed to rehabilitation.”

The project’s final price tag will be about $8 million.

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