Adopt-A-Monument / Mural

Conserving public art through private funds

1987–present

In response to the deterioration of many of New York City’s outdoor statues and public murals in hospitals, schools and libraries, and the limited resources to preserve them, The Municipal Art Society initiated the Adopt-A-Monument program in 1987 and the Adopt-A-Mural program in 1991. Both programs were born as pleas to corporate and private donors to support the conservation of the city’s most neglected public statues and threatened murals. Today the programs protect 53 works of public art across all five boroughs.

The work of the Adopt-A-Monument Program is supported in part by generous funding from the Achelis & Bodman Foundation, the Anna-Maria & Stephen Kellen Foundation, and the Paul and Klara Porzelt Foundation.

  • Restoration of the Joan of Arc statue in Riverside Park, April 2024. Rededication of the statue on May 18, 2024. Photos: Nancy Oatts and MAS. View the full album on Flickr.
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  • On May 19, 2023, Wilson Conservation conducted maintenance on the magnificent Henry Ward Beecher Monument. Photo: MAS. View the full album on Flickr.
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  • On May 30, 2023, conservators from Wilson Conservation conducted annual maintenance on the Admiral David Glasgow Farragut Monument. Photo: Kade Van Meeteren. View the full album on Flickr.
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  • On June 29, 2023, Wilson Conservation conducted annual maintenance on the James Gordon Bennett Memorial (The Bellringers). Photo: Kade Van Meeteren. View the full album on Flickr.
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  • On August 2, 2023, under the Adopt program, MAS contracted NYC Parks' Citywide Monuments Conservation team to complete the restoration on the Grand Central Stones initiated in 2017. Photo: Kade Van Meeteren. View the full album on Flickr.
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  • On October 25 - 27, 2023, conservators and stone masons from Cultural Heritage Conservation and Titan Roofing, under the Municipal Art Society's Adopt-A-Monument program, conducted annual maintenance on the Heinrich Heine Fountain ("Die Lorelei"). Photos: Kade Van Meeteren and Phyllis Cohen. View the full album on Flickr.
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Joan of Arc

On May 18, 2024, the Municipal Art Society of New York, the Joan of Arc Statue Committee, and the Riverside Park Conservancy celebrated the Upper West Side’s Maid of Orléans—the Joan of Arc statue and her recent restoration under MAS’s Adopt-A-Monument program.

Learn about the statue’s history

One of the most beautiful monuments in this city is right before us. Saint Joan stands, proudly, atop her war horse, her head looking heavenward, her detailed armor in full view, at the end of this quiet tree- lined street. On rising ground, facing the Hudson River, surrounded by oak leaf hydrangea, rhododendron and ferns, it’s a sylvan setting in which to think about what went on 500 years ago. Jeanne la Pucelle, the peasant maid, whose visions propelled her to gain audience with Charles V11 was appointed to lead the French army routing the English from the city of Orleans, only later to be burned at the stake for heresy in Rouen on May 30, 1431; some 20 years following, a reinvestigation annulled her sentence; and 500 years after that, her martyrdom so haunted the imagination that on May 16, 1920, she was canonized Saint Joan.

Dazzling as the monument is today, four decades ago she was among 100s of public sculptures that suffered from the twin threats of environmental pollution and urban abuse. Acid rain killing fish in our lakes, damaging our farm crops and destroying our forests was dissolving our outdoor statues. Many of our city’s masterpieces, including Joan, were deteriorating rapidly. Automobile fumes and factory emissions combine with rainwater to form sulfuric and nitric acids that attack cast bronze and stone surfaces. Vandalism and neglect had taken their toll as had the city’s policy of endlessly deferred maintenance due to lack of funds. The Municipal Art Society, a nonprofit organization founded 131 years ago by architects, artists, and cultural leaders energized by the 1893 World’s Columbia Expedition in Chicago, led the City Beautiful Movement seeking to beautify NYC with public art. While our concerns have broadened to include the applied arts, urban planning and design, in 1987 we undertook an innovative program in partnership with the NYC Parks Department, to preserve public art, launching the Adopt-A-Monument Program. Twenty monuments in all five boroughs were selected for the pilot program to encourage private funding from corporations, foundations and individuals to save the legacy of public statues by underwriting the repair of these great works. Since then, the MAS has raised $4 million dollars and saved 53 public artworks, 38 monuments and 16 murals. We also oversee the critical element of annual maintenance for each treasure. Adopt-A-Monument has served as a model for similar initiatives in other cities–Chicago, Dallas, Boston and San Francisco.

The Grand Marnier Foundation, in the name of France, stepped in immediately to save the Joan of Arc statue. They saw the monument as a salute to the friendship that has bonded France and the United States since the American revolution as well as our support of France during World War I. It was also a celebration of women–not only the saint that lifted the siege of Orleans but also the esteemed American sculptor that memorialized her, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington (1866-1974) whose fascination with the romantic legend of the French heroine led to her most acclaimed work of art.

The scourges of bronze deterioration were evident on Joan of Arc. The Maid of Orleans’ original patina, a statuary brown, had converted to a powdery copper sulfate with black areas of copper sulfide. Her face was pitted and disfigured; her torso and the underbelly of the horse badly streaked. Her sword was deformed by repeated bending; the spurs and horse’s reign missing; and the stone pedestal marred with graffiti. You can see this degradation and decline in the photos we provided for the video.

The conservator Steve Tatti was hired by MAS to execute the restoration: The statue was cleaned of surface dirt with water sprayed under high pressure and non-ionic detergents. The bronze was heated with propane torches to drive out the moisture. A clear hard paste wax was applied and worked into the surface. Pigmented wax visually integrated any discolorations. The uniform tone enhanced the statue’s fine details, like the veins in the horse’s animated face.

The horse’s rein, missing for years, was found in Parks’ storage, straightened and fastened in place. The missing spurs were refabricated. The bent sword straightened with clamps and repatinated to match the statue. The heavy graffiti on the elaborate base took three days to remove.

As custodian of this splendid statue, MAS has used funds raised by our Adopt-A-Monument maintenance endowment to annually clean and wax the bronze. But we also longed to provide the equivalent conservation for the magnificent 1915 Gothic-style granite pedestal. Designed by the renowned architect, John V. Van Pelt, it has the historic connection to the period in which Joan of Arc lived–constructed with limestone blocks from the Tower at Rouen where she was imprisoned; and a stone from Rheims Cathedral, site of King Charles VII’s coronation.

The opportunity to preserve the base came last year when MAS contacted the Joan of Arc Statue Committee, chaired by Randy Hugill, who generously secured $18,000 toward this restoration. The MAS came through with $4,800 for the total of $22,800.

Amanda Trienens, Jude Clarey, and Juliane Weisner-Chianese, expert stone conservators, were hired by MAS for the challenging restoration. On April 20, the delicate work commenced with removal of old mortar from failing and large open joints. The joints were cleaned of debris; grout was injected into the joints that had the deepest loss, followed by the installation of mortar that was color tested to match the stone. A special mortar mix was installed in the historic limestone blocks in the blind arches. The entire base was cleaned and washed. A triumph!

The rededication of the Joan of Arc monument on May 18, 2024, the French anthem, “La Marseillaise,” was sung beautifully by the PS 84 student choir in honor of French culture and the remarkable heroine, Joan of Arc. It was a testament to the harmony we hope will exist in our wider world. Vive l’amitié entre les peuples!

To track our achievements, we have created an interactive map of all the monuments throughout New York City that have been restored and preserved through the Adopt-A-Monument program.
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children play on the shore near the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Giles Ashford.

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workers restoring a Bolotowsky mural
1991

Protecting Public Art through Adopt-A-Mural

Following the success of Adopt-A-Monument, MAS launches its sister program Adopt-A-Mural. Together, the programs have raised more than $5 million to conserve and maintain 51 works of public art across all five boroughs.

View Our Full History