Erick Gude has been on the staff of the Balboa Art Conservation Center since 2001. As a conservation technician and photographer, his primary duties include photography, reframing, art handling, and conservation of frames. Before landing at the Center, he had worked for the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Terra Museum of Art in Chicago, the Musée d’Art Americain in Giverny, France, and the San Diego Museum of Art.
Here he shares some insights on what it’s like to work at BACC, and working in the field of art conservation, in general.
How did you end up working at an art conservation center?
When I heard that BACC was looking for a conservation tech, I was intrigued. I had been working as a museum preparator for more than ten years, and I was ready for a new challenge. I had worked peripherally with conservators over the years, so I jumped at the opportunity to expand on the skills I already had and I was eager to learn a new set, as well.
To date, what is the favorite conservation project that you have worked on?
The project that was the most fun for me was an on-site we did in Sacramento. There had been a fire in the capitol building, and we were there to clean the murals in the Senate chambers and dust the sculptures, nooks, and crannies inside the rotunda all the way up to and including the ceiling. It required most of the staff, a few good temp workers, and three stories of scaffolding.
My favorite project, however, was the removal of two Edgar Payne murals from an old theater. It was a difficult job done under challenging conditions: no lights, no air conditioning, and a sloping, sticky floor. It required a bit of out of the box problem solving, and that was just to get the pieces to the Center. More challenges awaited us in the lab. In the end I was very satisfied with how well the murals turned out, and I was proud that we were able to rescue and preserve two important pieces of California art and history.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Occasionally art comes to us that is severely damaged or so dirty that it is not viewable. That moment when the piece is back in its frame, on an easel — it looks reborn.
What do you wish more people knew about conservation work?
Art conservation is a science. The conservators I work with are scientists. When a work of art is brought to us for treatment or analysis, it is treated with the utmost respect and care.
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