Liz Daube reported to Historic City News that students from St. Augustine’s sister city – Aviles, Spain – are getting a chance to use their art restoration skills on Flagler College’s historic dining hall this summer.
Their efforts mark the start of a relationship that professors from both Flagler and the Aviles School of Art hope will become a regular international exchange program.
Maria Sedano, head of the painting restoration department in Aviles, is overseeing the technical work of six students. She said they’ve all had about three years of education and many have recently completed degrees in art restoration; it will take about a month to complete their project at Flagler. The Aviles professor coordinating the exchange, Alicia Garcia, said the Flagler dining hall murals present “a wonderful opportunity to practice all the knowledge they’ve acquired in a real painting situation.”
The dining hall’s murals have minor damage caused by paint peeling away from the plaster beneath. They are more than a century old; the luxury Ponce de Leon Hotel was originally completed in 1888. It now serves as a Flagler College residence hall, dining hall and administrative offices.
Don Martin, Flagler art and design professor, said the murals haven’t been touched up for almost a decade. Their first major restoration was done in the 1980s.
“We thought this was something our art department does not offer, and it would establish a mutually beneficial experience,” Martin said. “The city and the college wanted to establish cultural exchanges … Next summer we hope to have a relationship with their graphic design program.”
Flagler design students frequently win awards for their work, but Martin said time in Spain would expose them to “a whole new style of design. European design is substantially different from what they see here … It’s very sophisticated, and it has its own unique qualities.”
Aviles is St. Augustine’s oldest sister city. They share common heritage in Pedro Menendez, the Spanish explorer who hailed from Aviles and founded St. Augustine more than 400 years ago.
As sister cities, delegates from both St. Augustine and Aviles make overseas visits to establish cultural and educational connections. Consuelo Lippi of the Sister Cities Association of St. Augustine said the idea for an exchange program between Flagler College and Aviles emerged in 2006.
“It’s such a pleasure to see it happen,” she said.