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Volunteers Search For Public Art - High And Low

October 8, 1993

BOSTON (AP) _ The Lexington Minuteman will surely qualify for the national register of public sculpture.

But what about the Hadley Muffler Man?

″I wouldn’t rule it out,″ said Patricia Weslowski. ″It’s free standing. It’s viewable in the public way. Presumably, it had the hand of an artist in it - and those are the three criteria.″

Weslowski directs Save Our Sculpture 3/8 in Massachusetts, a project of volunteers searching the state for public sculpture, from bronze war heroes to mailboxes made of welded car parts, like the Muffler Man.

Their work is part of Save Outdoor Sculpture 3/8 - or SOS 3/8 - a nationwide project started three years ago by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American Art and the National Institute of Conservation, both in Washington.

SOS 3/8, which gives states private and federal money, aims to complete a catalog of every public sculpture in the country by December 1995, and then show communities how to restore and maintain them.

Sue Nichols, SOS 3/8 national program director, said many states have discovered regional specialties, like a series of sculptures made of welded car parts in Tennessee.

″It’s a kind of a fine line, but folk art and legitimate art are very closely kin,″ said Jim Schippers, curator at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

Tennessee’s inclusion of car part sculptures in its archive should open the door for Marty the Muffler Man and a muffler cactus in Hadley, 78 miles west of Boston. Both are mailboxes built to stand outside a muffler shop.

″If Tennessee qualifies, then we certainly do,″ said shop owner John Conneely. ″They’ll probably declare Marty a historical monument and then we’ll never get to take him down.″

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