Art conservationist Darcie Flinn leaned over the stern visage of George Washington, painted by New Orleans artist Edmund Brewster and purchased by the city in 1819.
While she applied special chemicals with a cotton ball Tuesday, a colleague alongside her in the crimson-hued room in Gallier Hall polished a 19th-century brass mantle clock.
These were among the first small touches of a renovation effort expected to cost $5 million and encompass the entire interior of a building that served as New Orleans’ City Hall for a century and still plays a prominent role in Mardi Gras celebrations.
“We’re executing a vision to completely restore the interior of the building, to really imagine what it can be like for future generations to come,” said Cheryl Landrieu, the wife of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in announcing the start of the project Tuesday.
The city has been raising private funds for the renovation and so far has collected about $500,000. The aim is to wrap up the work by late 2017, in time for the city’s tricentennial the following year.
Gallier Hall’s exterior underwent a publicly funded restoration last year after a chunk of the building’s façade came loose. That work cost about $10 million.
The art restoration portion of the project is being funded by a $145,000 donation from the Helis Foundation. In all, conservationists will refurbish 41 paintings and their frames, many of which were given to the city by foreign countries.
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