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Bradley professor who helped restore Sonar Tide explains the process

Fisher Stolz.jpg
Collin Schopp
Fisher Stolz, art professor at Bradley University, is one half of a team that worked as consultants and restorationists on the Sonar Tide refurbishing.

An iconic sculpture that welcomes visitors to downtown Peoria has received a thorough restoration after almost four decades out in the elements.

The “Sonar Tide” sculpture was created by minimalist artist Ronald Bladen in 1983.

“It’d been 40 years of fading, paint, delamination, rust, scrapes, graffiti and the piece was at a point where it needed to be restored,” said Fisher Stolz, a Bradley University art professor and one half of the team that served as consultants and artists behind the restoration.

Working with adjunct professor Jaci Willis, Stolz pressure washed, removed rust, reprimed and retouched the sculpture with four coats of black paint. However, it couldn’t be just any black paint.

“He (Bladen) wants his black to have a particular sheen to it,” said Stolz. “It needs to kind of spark, it doesn’t need to be glossy, it needs to kind of be a satin kind of black.”

Stolz said the project got the new paint from the same person who delivered it to Bladen in the '80’s. Touches like these emphasize that Peoria is, as Stolz puts it, a “making community”.

Another important aspect of the project was preserving Bladen’s intent in the piece.

“That was always at the front of our decision-making,” said Stolz. “The way the artist intended this to be. And part of this wonderful restoration is that we've reclaimed the sculpture itself.”

Stolz said there also have been updates to the landscaping around the sculpture, a “simple oval shape with low Juniper green.”

“It’s subtle, it doesn’t interfere with the sculpture itself,” he said. “But it will protect it in a way, that visual barrier.”

The newly refurbished statue was unveiled last week by the Junior League of Peoria that funded the $45,000 project. Stolz hopes people who see the newly freshened sculpture take pride in their city.

Sonar Tide Picture #2.JPG
Tim Shelley
The refurbished Sonar Tide sculpture serves as a frame and welcome to visitors of downtown Peoria.

“It’s been called the most important piece of public art in Peoria,” he said. “I hope that people come away from this with an appreciation of civic pride, that we care about the things that we live with here in Peoria.”

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.