Piasa Bird cleanup may begin at end of July 07

ALTON, Ill. (AP) - The Piasa Bird painted on the limestone bluffs in
this Mississippi River city may be repainted and cleaned with a new
cryogenic blasting technique, after vandals threw tar-dipped sticks
at the local landmark.

City officials, who still are studying the liability of the repair
project, hope to begin work later this month.

"The vandalism has revitalized interest in that park and in that
bird," said Mike Drake, executive director of the Alton Park and
Recreation Department.

The creature, a mythological human-headed, fish-tailed, man-eating
monster, was defaced early last month. Five local high school
students confessed to the crime.

The bird is said to be based on a long-vanished American Indian rock
painting that decorated a river bluff near here.

Over the years, the bird's likeness has appeared in several locations
and in various styles, including a metal cutout affixed to a bluff.
The latest version - a painting about 50 feet wide and two stories
tall, with the bottom edge roughly 20 feet above the ground - was
painted by community members in the mid-1990s.

Instead of using high-pressurized sand or water to clean the bird,
workers hope to blast pellets of dry ice at the painting to chip away
the tar.

The technique is more commonly used in industrial settings, said
Stephen Stodnick, whose Chesterfield, Mo., company - Paragon
Certified Restoration - along with other vendors, are donating labor
for the project.

Drake said he plans to establish a fund for the restoration and two
people already had called in donations Thursday afternoon.

Artist Dave Stevens, who led the painting of the current bird on the
bluffs in 1998, said he plans to retouch portions of the bird that
have faded.

"It was just kind of sickening, it made me half nauseous," he said
of the vandalism. "It's been a piece of history in this area for
umpteen years. It needs to be maintained. It is part of our history
here."
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