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They look just the way they did in 1912
The Prospect Park Carousel, a staple of the park since 1912, reopened for the season on April 14. And while countless rides on the stately horses and creatures have left a mark, you won’t find any chipped paint this year.
This is thanks to Architectural Conservator Assya Plavskina’s meticulous work conserving and refining the carousel’s trademark details and colors, and original design.
The horses of Prospect Park’s Carousel last went through a major restoration in the late 1980s-early 1990s and were lovingly maintained by Lucio Schiavone until 2014.
Plavskina started her work by stripping the figures of old varnish, removing flaking paint, and filled in areas of missing or fail- ing paint, being careful to exactly match the paint al- ready on the figures. The difficult task of matching colors required Plavskina to use her background in chemistry as a historical conservator to get the hues just right.
Plavsinka’s work also pays homage to the original roots of the carousel. “The design of the figures is heavy in gilding, as is typical of the work of Charles Carmel, the famous early-20th century carousel figure carver responsible for these figures, so it was important to make sure that this element was visible and prominent.” Plavskina used a metal leafing to match the existing gold and silver leaf.
“My intention was to stabilize all of the existing paint and gilding, fill in any particularly large areas of loss to match exactly what was intended to be there, and to ensure that all of the artistic finishes are well protected against the intense use that the carousel gets.”
A fun fact from the con- servation process: Before the work could get started, the figures needed a clean- ing with soap that would not damage the paint. It’s common for conservators to turn to other trades when selecting appropriate tools, and in this case, Plavskina turned to the horse-care trade — the soap with which the carousel horses were cleaned was actually intended for the cleaning of real horses.
The carousel is one of the park’s most cherished and time-honored attractions for many park-goers, including Plavskina herself: “One of my favorite things about working on the carousel was seeing the constant stream of children eagerly holding on to the closed railings, pointing out their favorite horses, and expressing how eager they were to ride again.
“Of course, they do not know, or care, that the horses may look identical to how they did 100 years ago, or the exact perfect color match of each paint, or what work goes into making sure that that paint remains stable and the carousel remains running,” she said.