Since its installation on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in 1984, the bronze "Boy with a Dolphin" sculpture has become a popular landmark and gathering spot. Almost any time of day or (almost) any season, you can find people milling about, admiring the sculpture and perhaps wondering just what kind of ingenious sculpting force allows the boy to essentially float in mid-air.
David Wynne, the sculpture's creator, described the sculpture as carrying a theme of "joy and well-being." Over time, however, the bronze lad's joyous wave riding took a toll. Or, rather, years of unforgiving Minnesota winters did. And a small crack that appeared on one of the boy's wrists after he first came to Mayo Clinic got worse. Fortunately, he didn't have to go far for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
"A small hairline crack in the wrist was noticed in 1984, when the sculpture first arrived in Rochester," Mayo Clinic Art Program Coordinator Sally Enders tells us. "Some work was done to repair the sculpture, but not necessarily in a way considered a permanent treatment." The injury has been carefully monitored ever since, and earlier this year, it became clear that surgery was in order.
The first order of business was to get a good X-ray, so Mayo's Facilities team, working with a sculpture conservator and Braun Intertec Corp., took an X-ray of the boy's wrist to understand the full extent of his injury. With what they learned from the X-ray, they "were able to make a cut along the crack in the wrist and make welds to add strength," Enders says. In fact, the team of welders worked for 15 hours to perform the corrective surgery and the cosmetic work to restore the proper patina.
"The sculpture was cast with a bronze-grade of metal not found in the United States, and we were fortunate to locate rods from the original foundry in Britain to make the fill," Enders says. Even so, the corrective weld was "tricky," but it was made possible by the team's persistence and care.
"They made it work, along with adding weep holes to ensure no water is trapped, causing additional weight and stress on the cantilevered boy," she says. "No structural damage was found with the internal stainless steel when they cut open the wrist, and this is good news." Indeed it is. Not just for the Boy with a Dolphin, but also for those of us who enjoy stopping by for a visit during our daily travels around campus.
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