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The cherry takes a trip

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Spoonbridge and Cherry
The Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The sculpture was created by the husband-and-wife artistic team of Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen.
MPR Photo/Steve Mullis

Everyone knows the Spoonbridge with Cherry, but how well do we know it? Try this: what is the diameter of the cherry?

Guesses from around the MPR newsroom ranged from 4 to 50 feet.

The Walker's Joe King knows the Spoon Bridge with Cherry much better than most people. He knows the answer exactly.

Cherry installation
Cherry installation at the Sculpture Garden in 1988.
Image courtesy Walker Art Center

"The diameter of it is 8 feet 10 inches," he says.

King is the Walker's Associate Registrar. He's one of the people whose job it is to move expensive art works around. Today what he's moving is not only big, it's a symbol of the Twin Cities.

It's almost a rite of passage for newcomers to go to have a picture taken with the spoonbridge as a backdrop. If you do it right you can get a rainbow effect from the sun shining through the mist of water spraying out of the cherry stem. King says that spray is part of the problem.

"You know the cherry has been installed out in the garden for 21 years," he says. "And that's a pretty rough environment, especially in Minnesota, for anything to be outside if you think about the temperature extremes that it goes through on a yearly basis. And in addition, six months in any year it's covered in water."

To maintain the cherry's cherry red, the Walker has painted it a couple of times. But now it's time for a deeper treatment, applying a new protective undercoat as well as the surface color. To get the fine finish they want, King says that means taking the cherry off-site to an industrial coatings plant.

"To get it off of the spoon we actually have to send someone inside the cherry."

"It needs to be done in a controlled setting," King says. "It's very difficult for workers to accomplish that when they are working way up in the air in a lift."

But a lift will be involved to get the cherry off the spoon for the first time in two decades. There's no instruction book of course, but King says he does have a video tape.

"We were pretty fortunate in that when the work was installed in the Garden there was really excellent video documentation," King says. "So we were able to really look at how the cherry was rigged or suspended in the air, and so we are using the exact same techniques that were used."

King also knows about the secret door.

"To get it off of the spoon we actually have to send someone inside the cherry," he says. "There is an access panel on the bottom of the cherry that will be opened and someone will enter in and unbolt the cherry from the spoon while the crane is suspending it."

King points to one other remarkable thing about this story: who, or what, is footing the bill. He says Martin Friedman, head of the Walker when the Spoonbridge with Cherry was installed, set up an endowment specifically for the upkeep of the sculpture.

"So often in public art people get really excited about buying the piece and installing it, and kind of forget about the maintainance needs down the road, and Martin was definately ahead of the game on that point," King says.

The cherry will be gone for about six weeks. Joe King says if they do it right, no-one should notice anything different about the refurbished cherry.

It'll be as if it never left.