For nearly 70 years, the Cleveland-based Intermuseum Conservation Association has quietly helped to preserve and maintain art throughout the Midwest. Its next restoration project? Its own building.
Associations serve a wide variety of roles for their local communities, their industries, or the world at large.
Sometimes, those roles represent yeoman’s work, doing things that are important to a culture’s preservation or broader growth but that the average person does not think about.
The Intermuseum Conservation Association, a Cleveland-based art preservation group, is very much in that role. Founded in 1952, ICA has played a key role in supporting artistic preservation in the Midwest and inspired other regional organizations supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Over the years, the organization has helped to preserve objects as important as a mural inside the lounge car of a Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train and as novel as the “meat dress” worn by Lady Gaga to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. (And it’s not the only piece of music history ICA has worked on, either: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is nearby, and the association frequently helps preserve rock memorabilia as a result.)
In a recent interview with Cleveland Magazine, ICA Executive Director Julie Reilly noted that the broader goal of the association is to help preserve whatever comes in, as needed and demanded.
“There is never a point when conservation is done,” Reilly told the magazine. “We’re always trying to fight the effects of time on art, and that’s a never-ending battle.”
ICA works in a particularly notable place in Cleveland, in a facility near downtown on Detroit Avenue. The association has been there for more than 15 years, but it has generally kept a low profile. That’s changing, as ICA is working on a transformation that will open up the building more readily to the public, in part by teaming with a contractor to make the storefront more prominent and by adding conservation classes to the association’s repertoire.
One way it plans to do so is by working with West Side High School, which is being built nearby. ICA will work with the school on projects related to STEM and STEAM, with the goal of encouraging students to look at the conservation field. Reilly noted that conservation has the ability to mix art and science in diverse ways.
“We bifurcate people into the arts and sciences, but the same mind is capable of doing both,” Reilly told the magazine. “You can’t fully understand one without understanding the other. This is at the core of what we do behind these doors every single day.”