Brian Andelin, of Monett, has a dream.
The executive director of the Art Monument Foundation, Andelin has been trying to do something about the quality of public art in America. In the last 50 years, public art has shifted from classical statuary, pillars and arches to abstract creations that become hard to identify as art.
"The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art has construction debris on the floor that is considered art," Andelin said. "One guy covered his apartment with cheese and that's considered an installation. At the Phoenix airport, copper pipes running over the escalator get a name and are considered art."
Incorporated in 2003, the Art Monument Foundation is "committed to insuring that the public buildings, grounds and monuments of America include outstanding works."
Andelin has been working from rural Monett with his brother, John, in Williston, N.D., on a number of art projects. They recently completed a marble statue for George H.W. Bush's presidential library in College Station, Texas. The brothers' foundation has been named as a finalist in two other projects and Brian has been a technical consultant on replacing the cracked marble memorial for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sculpting was a childhood hobby for the brothers. Brian recalls making Tahitian drums and Tiki heads out of driftwood as a child in the early 1970s in California. John, a physician who has seven children, has continued sculpting as a hobby. He made a hand-carved bust of Jesus around the year 2000 that was subsequently acquired by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
Brian began exploring different machines that carve stone. He found a custom unit in Stowe, Ohio, that has a 17 horsepower router that is water cooled and has hollow bits. The machine worked, which led to exploring other equipment.
Andelin looked into robotic sculpting, generally used by Boeing and McDonnell Douglas for industrial use. They acquired a $200,000 robotics sculpting machine that cuts stone in five axis directions, using three dimensional photography as a guide. The computer software alone to run the machine cost $25,000.
The brothers approached the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library about doing a bust of the 41st president. The library was receptive and the project developed into a full statue. A photo shoot was scheduled in Texas with the former president. The 3D camera recorded 300,000 points in space in each shot. The modeling session took 30 minutes.
The statue was cut from a 20,000 pound block of marble back in North Dakota. About 7,000 pounds were cut from the block with a diamond-toothed hydraulic chainsaw. The 14-foot tall machine carved the eight-and-a-half foot statue. Andelin said because of the size of the piece, the stone was hard to secure and required significant carving by hand on the back to complete it.
The brothers worked on the Bush project for about three years. Andelin said much of that time was spent finetuning and calibrating the equipment. The statue is now at an art museum in Maine. A formal unveiling ceremony will be held there.
While at the quarry getting the stone for the Bush statue, Andelin was told about the quandary presented by the 60-ton Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A meeting was arranged with Jack Metzler, superintendent of Arlington. Andelin was intrigued and signed on as a technical consultant.
The Art Monument Foundation has subsequently photographed the monument in 3D and developed a replacement model. Andelin sought out the best crane company in the nation. He signed on the George C. Young Company, a Massachusetts-based firm specializing in difficult installations. Together Andelin and the Young specialists developed specifications for how to transport the old memorial away and put a new one in place.
An engineering study done on the memorial in 1991 indicated the cracks would only get worse. Andelin said mishandling during the original preparation of the monument is thought to be responsible for the cracks. Andelin has participated in meetings with the Trust for Historic Preservation. He met with Metzler and representatives from the Veterans Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey on July 11 at the quarry, which is an indicator that the project is moving forward.
The computer has made a 30-inch polymer model of the memorial, which has been adjusted to make it more accurate. An actual sized replica of the wreath for the memorial has been made and a nearly full sized version of the panel showing the three figures at the front of the memorial.
If Andelin's foundation gets a contract for replacing the memorial, he can seeing bringing some of the stone to Monett for polishing. Such an undertaking could take three to six months.
"Florence, Italy, at the Renaissance had only 70,000 people, including a lot of stonecutters," Andelin said. "You don't need a lot of people for this. You need the right appreciation. I'm optimistic what I'm doing could be pretty phenomenal for the future. We could attract sculptors and artists to the area."
Over the course of these projects, Andelin has made a number of connections he hopes to use. He likes to have local companies participate in projects. A crew from Maryland did the 3D photography for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. A Texas firm volunteered a truck to do whatever was necessary to transport the Bush statue.
"I'm definitely assembling a good team," Andelin said.
Andelin sees his role with the foundation as a go-between in working with sensitive artists and "hardnosed engineers" trying to put up buildings. Other major public projects on which the brothers are working have helped build their credibility and reputation.
"I have big goals. It would be a nice thing for the community to participate," Andelin added.