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Serena Urry keeps Cincinnati Art Museum's old masterpieces looking new

Posted at 8:12 PM, Feb 07, 2018

CINCINNATI - You won’t see Serena Urry on your visit to the Cincinnati Art Museum.

That’s because she’s busy in her conservation lab restoring some of museum's rarest art pieces.

It's a meticulous job - one brush stroke or one chip at a time. And an important job.

After all, how many people would you trust with a Van Gogh and an electric drill?

"It's not like you can go out and buy another one," Urry says matter of factly.

Urry is one of several experts at work in the art museum's conservatory – the oldest one in the Midwest. While others specialize in fabric, paper and 3D objects, Urry handles paintings.

About that Van Gogh?

"I had a moment thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I'm drilling into a piece of wood that's right beside this Van Gogh,’ but then I just got over it because if you think like that you're just going to be frozen," Urry said.      

To get to the conservation lab, you go down the hallway, through the basement, and through lots of locked doors. It’s literally a trip through time – through centuries.

"This one is 600 years old," Urry says about a painting she’s restoring.

"When you see a beautiful painting, you don't always realize that there was many hundreds of hours potentially behind it,” says Jill Dunne, Director of Communications.

Urry says her goal is making everything “shine as it should." And making sure that the art lives on to inspire us.  

“I think art is central to your life, whether you know it or not, and we're charged with making sure it survives into the future for  future generations,” Urry said.

The Cincinnati Art Museum conservation lab is the only one in the Tri-State.