Go Behind the Scenes with the AFA's Art Collections Manager!

Date: Aug 28, 2019

Before any AFA artwork is sent out for an exhibition or loan, it is thoroughly assessed to make sure it is in good condition—and that includes ensuring the artwork is clean.

So what does it take to get an artwork in show-worthy shape? A little elbow grease, distilled water and a vacuum!

Art Collections Manager Erin McDonald shows us how to go about cleaning an artwork—in this case, it’s Arlene Stamp’s Nova, which is going to the Glenbow for an upcoming exhibition. Nova is comprised of vinyl tile (the kind you’d find on kitchen floors), and the medium determines what cleaning technique will be best.


First, Erin removes any surface dust using a hand-held, manual air blower to lift the dust from the surface, followed by a light vacuuming.


The next step is to apply a cleaning agent. The least invasive cleaning agent is always the first choice; in this case, it's starting with distilled water. Very carefully, Erin applies the cleaner to the surface of the artwork and wipes it using a fine, microfiber cloth.   

Erin will not use a spray bottle to apply the water, as she doesn’t want to oversaturate the artwork and have water seep into the wood support of the artwork.

Erin will repeat this process, square by square, until finished—which will take approximately eight hours.

See more of Arlene Stamp’s artwork in the AFA collection.