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Pop Art Nun's Historic Work is Unveiled in Cleveland

Sr. Corita Kent (Corita Art Center)
Sr. Corita Kent (Corita Art Center)

Unfurling Sr Corita from David C Barnett on Vimeo.

The United Church of Christ had its start in New York City, but relocated to Cleveland in 1989. During preparations for the move, Rev. Robert Noble noticed a strange box on a high shelf.

ROBERT NOBLE: So, I climbed up onto the shelf, brought the box down, opened it up, and there it was --- I knew exactly what it was as soon as I saw it.

He had discovered a peace banner created by the noted artist and Catholic nun Sr. Corita Kent for a special exhibit at the 1964 New York World's Fair. This colorful artwork was acquired by the UCC after the Fair closed and it was put in storage.

ROBERT NOBLE: It's forty-feet-long, three-feet-high. So, when it came out of that space, it was always a problem of where were you going to find that much room again.

A huge gallery wall has been created at Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art to display the 50-year-old banner as part of a special exhibit of the late-Corita Kent's work. Heather Galloway of the Cleveland-based Intermuseum Conservation Association has been retained to repair the minor wear and flaking paint that comes from being rolled-up for the better part of a half century.

HEATHER GALLOWAY: We're trying to stabilize it, make it safe, and get it up on the wall where it belongs.

The public will get its first look at Corita Kent's cleaned-up canvas, this Friday, at MOCA-Cleveland.

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.