By Jim DeLa
A 15-foot tall piece of New College history is getting a sorely needed makeover, to the delight of alums and public art lovers.
The sculpture, called “The Band of Angels,” has stood in the middle of the Palmer complex since it was created in 1973 by students of one of the founders of the College’s art department, the late Professor Jack Cartlidge.
The artwork is supported by a welded steel skeleton covered in ferrocement, a mortar reinforced with a light steel fabric/mesh. “Jack never had money” to buy materials for his creations, recalled Steve Jacobson ’71, who helped create “Band of Angels.” “He was always thinking ‘How do I do something with what I can find?'”
Over the years, the elements have taken their toll. The sculpture has been repaired and repainted several times, not always correctly.
Scott Moore, an art restoration expert from Port Charlotte, was recently hired to do the latest work on the piece. “I’ve had to patch prior repairs that weren’t very good,” he noted. “It’s kind of like cutting out the cancer.”
Moore has spent the last several weeks cleaning the sculpture, as well as grinding and patching holes in the artwork. The final touch will be a coating of rubberized marine-grade paint to better protect the structure.
Jacobsen says working on the project was a labor of love. “Let’s face it — we were a bunch of students who had never worked with steel or cement before,” he said. “We were learning to do it as we did it.”
New College Alumni Association board member Frazier Carraway ’72 worked on the sculpture during his first year at New College. “I worked on the concrete pad and steel framework,” he recalled. “Lives are enhanced through public art. I’m very pleased that it’s being restored.”
The sculpture also had a nickname — “Big Mother.” According to a conversation transcribed by his daughter, Dory Cartlidge McQueen, Cartlidge recalled ” … one of our students walked up to the bottom of the sculpture, looked up and said, ‘Man, that’s gonna be a big mutha!’ From that moment the name changed. …”
Jacobson, now a cryogenics engineer at Northwestern University and also a member of the New College Alumni Association board, has wonderful memories of studying under Cartlidge. “Working with him was a trip. When you did something that wasn’t up to your potential, he let you know about it. When you did something unique, you knew you did something unique.
“I loved him. He was one of the key figures in my life. I owe him a tremendous amount.”
Learn More: The sculpture has also garnered the attention of students working on an independent study project researching public art on campus. On Jan. 23 at 1 p.m., just after the AOC Fair, the campus is invited to gather at the artwork to hear a presentation by the ISP students about the piece and its history.
— Jim DeLa is digital communications coordinator at New College of Florida