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Sneak peak in copper art museum
Written by Trista Steers MacVittie   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 00:00

Copper — shiny and dull, rusted and polished — fills an old building in downtown Clarkdale.

The functional and decorative pieces create a collection yet to be unveiled to the public.

Copper moldings and ceiling pieces gleam in the afternoon sun at the Copper Art Museum on Jan. 24. Clarkdale town employees took advantage of the chance to tour the museum, which is not scheduled to open to the public until December.The Clarkdale Town Council and town employees toured the Copper Art Museum, which is set to open its doors in December.

Housed in Clarkdale’s old high school, located across the street from Town Hall, the museum’s collection boasts pieces from all over the world while celebrating the town’s roots as a copper mining town.

Even display cases, made from old windows once hanging at the Clarkdale smelter, tell the story of the town’s past.

Copper collector, enthusiast and expert Drake Meinke led council members and town employees through the hallways of the old building in the same way visitors will one day tour the museum.

Each exhibit is dedicated to “copper, the most important metal of society,” according to Meinke, starting with an exhibit explaining the fundamentals of copper.

Copper was first used between 13,000 and 10,000 B.C,, Meinke told the tour group. The metal comes out of the ground in nugget form, just like gold, and will last forever.

Also like gold, copper is a colored metal, Meinke said. Copper and gold are the only two colored metals of the 86 currently recognized.

After a quick lesson in copper’s origin and principles, the tour moved on to the Military Art room.

Artillery shells from World War I are locked into position on shelves lining the walls of the Military Art room.

Clarkdale Town Councilman Bill Regner examines intricately decorated copper shell casings during a town employee preview tour on Jan. 24 of the Copper Art Museum, scheduled to open in December in the old high school building. The museum has been designated as an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project and will  showcase a large collection of American and European copper art.Soldiers decorated artillery shells, made from a combination of copper and zinc, before they were fired, Meinke said. Most of the military artists were European and visitors can find names and dates etched into some of the shells taking them back in time.

Another room celebrates copper used in architecture and contains bigger pieces of metal art.

A copper piece that was once part of the Carnegie mansion in New York City in the 1870s to 1880s is included in the collection along with a modern ceiling plate and roof shingles. Many of the pieces once found outdoors are now a green color.

Copper exposed to the outdoors can turn to verti-green copper when the elements cause oxidation, except in Arizona, Meinke said. Arizona’s climate turns copper brown rather than green.

As visitors move from room to room, Meinke said they will notice many of the pieces are functional, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t art.

Wine, water and beer canisters, decorated and not, demonstrate functional art. Basins with spigots used hundreds of years ago look more like fine art than a household’s only source of running water.

While much of the wall space is full, more work remains to be done before Meinke opens the project to the public.


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