Mission San Xavier del Bac was named to the 2016 World Monuments Watch — a list of cultural heritage sites that are fragile and in need of international attention in hopes of ensuring their future.
“We hope that the international recognition will result in more opportunities to develop a funding stream,” said Miles Green, executive director of the nonprofit Patronato San Xavier, which promotes the restoration, maintenance and preservation of the mission on the Tohono O’odham reservation, just southwest of Tucson.
This is the first time the mission has made the list. It will stay on the list for two years. The World Monuments Fund’s 2016 World Monuments Watch list includes the Brussels Palace of Justice; colonial churches of Santiago, Cuba; the demolition of historic buildings in Bucharest, Romania; and World War II concentration camps in Italy.
“We are thrilled to be in the global spotlight,” Green said. “The mission is a world treasure, and we are in extraordinary international company as a member of the 2016 Watch.”
“This could not come at a better time, as we’re in the middle of a capital campaign to raise the needed dollars to restore the east tower of the mission and to build an endowment that will help with the mission’s upkeep in the years to come,” said Chuck Albanese, president of the Patronato San Xavier board of directors, in a news release.
The Patronato San Xavier’s current capital campaign goal is $3 million to complete the east tower. It has raised about $800,000, Green said. He said about $20 million worth of work remains, including the mission’s facade, mortuary chapel and the east wing. Since 1978, Patronato San Xavier has raised $11 million — mostly from Southern Arizona donors and through grants — for restoration work including the west tower, the interior, the roof and the main chapel, Green said.
Green said the Patronato San Xavier, founded by Southern Arizona community leaders in 1978, is “exploring the opportunity of how we might bring in groups to work on the mission that can offer training opportunities for young people in our community. They can learn significant skills that might serve a dual purpose as a talent base to employ and preserve the mission.”
Green pointed to Tim Lewis — a member of the Tohono O’odham community of Wa:k — who worked under Guggenheim conservator Paul Schwartzbaum to preserve and clean the interior. Beginning in 1992, the team spent six years conserving the wall paintings and sculpture inside the church. Since 2002, Lewis and his wife, Matilde Rubio, have continued preserving the interior.
“They are the primary conservators who work daily to stabilize the interior paint on the chapels and surfaces within the church,” Green said.