The effort to preserve Pasaquan, the internationally renowned visionary art site in Marion County, has received a huge boost that will result in a gift to Columbus State University.
The Kohler Foundation Inc., based in Wisconsin and dedicated to preserving art environments, has announced plans to restore the seven acres and six buildings to the colorful glory created six decades ago by the late Eddie Owens Martin, known as St. EOM.
After the two-year project is finished, Pasaquan will be gifted to the CSU Foundation for the university to use under the direction of associate art professor Mike McFalls. CSU plans to use the site for events, programming, educational activities and tours.
CSU president Tim Mescon said in a news release that this project is "an effort that will have an indelible and positive impact on the region."
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Kohler Foundation president Natalie Black said in the release, "Preservation of this site will ensure that future generations of artists and the public will be able to experience the varied facets of the property."
CSU student assistants will get hands-on experience while working on the preservation with conservators from Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and the local area. The project will include conservation of objects and painting as well as structural work.
The Kohler Foundation's higher education preservation partnerships have included:
Nicholls State University to preserve the Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden in Chauvin, La.
Edgewood College to preserve the Painted Forest in Valton, Wis.
The Pasaquan Preservation Society, a not-for-profit private organization, owns the Pasaquan site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located about six miles from the Buena Vista town square. The society has been caring for Pasaquan since Martin died in 1986.
As described on its website, Pasaquan contains brightly painted masonry walls, totems, walkways, temples and a pagoda. Tom Patterson, the author who has chronicled St. EOM's work, called Pasaquan "one of the most remarkable folk art environments in America -- a sort of mock pre-Columbian psychedelic wonderland."
Pasaquan had been open for public tours, but it closed this spring as the society started its preservation and restoration effort. The plan is to reopen the site after the project is completed.
The Kohler Foundation will fund the entire project, said foundation spokeswoman Terri Yoho, but she declined to disclose the estimated amount.
“We do not share financial details,” she told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email, “but this is a significant commitment for us and one that we are excited to be involved with.”