'Fish Boys' get a makeover

© 2018-Ogle County Life

OREGON – The Oregon Park District recently commissioned the father-daughter team of Towner K. Reed and Donald L. Reed to restore Lorado Taft’s “Fish Boys” fountain at Mix Park.
“Fish Boys” fountain is one of Lorado Taft’s creations and is over 100 years old. The “Fish Boys” was a template and materials test for Taft’s “Fountain of Time” at the Art Institute of Chicago. In the early 1970’s the sculptures were slated by the city of Oregon to be bulldozed. However, because of Donald L Reed’s extensive knowledge of Taft’s work and his earnestness to preserve Taft’s legacy, the figures were restored by Reed in the 70’s.
The Oregon Park District had been researching options for restoration when Donald Reed and his daughter Towner reached out. The restoration of the “Fish Boys” spanned over 30 days from August to September of 2017. The sculptures had seen years of wear due to elements.
Originally surveying the figures, the pair targeted 26 major sites in need of attention. Upon far closer inspection over 130 areas of degradation were addressed and repaired.
At the onset of the project, the entirety of the foundation was pressure-washed and treated with various solvents to break down decades of mineral deposits on the surface.
Corroded steel on the bases had been exposed to the elements causing corrosion to several areas of the sculptures. Suitable binders used to repair the damaged sites consisted of aggregate mixtures based on Taft’s original materials. Following the setting up of the hardened aggregate mixture were days and weeks of chiseling, hammering and carving to return movement, texture and vitality to Taft’s pieces. Both figures were then sealed to prevent any adverse effects from the elements.
Originally from Oregon, the Reeds have forayed into the business of fine arts restoration. Returning to their summer home in Oregon, the Madison residents were thrilled to return the Taft piece to its original state.
“It has been my greatest honor to work with my father,” Towner K. Reed said. “This is a piece that means so very much, not only to him, but to this community. So many people stopped by to express their thanks for the work being done, to share their childhood memories of the fountain, and to communicate their appreciation of Lorado Taft’s artistry. I feel so privileged to follow in my father’s footsteps to present these Taft figures, fully restored, to the town of Oregon.”
With a month of work having gone into the fountain, the “Fish Boys” are looking far more like the figures that Lorado Taft created over one hundred years ago.
“The Oregon area is culturally rich in art and sculptures,” said Erin Folk, executive director, Oregon Park District. “The Oregon Park District is very fortunate to be entrusted with many sculptures throughout our park system. The Reeds did an amazing job restoring “Fish Boys” and I encourage everyone to take a stroll through Mix Park to see the amazing work of  Lorado Taft over 100 years ago and restored by the Reeds.”
Mix Park is located at 701 S. 4thStreet, Oregon. Park amenities include a shelter, grill, playground, open play area and basketball court with “Fish Boys” located in the center.

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