Kress Conservation Fellowship - Vanka Murals & Carnegie Museum of Art

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Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka
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Thursday, 15 June, 2023 - 23:45

2023-2024 Kress Fellowship in Conservation
Deadline: June 15, 2023

Primary: Vanka Murals - Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka, St. Nicholas Croatian Church, 24 Maryland Ave, Millvale, PA 15209,
Secondary: Carnegie Museum of Art Conservation Department, 4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213,
Fixed Duration Position: 12 months from start date
Expected Start Date: September 1, 2023
Fellowship Award: Free housing, $44,000, plus additional compensation from CMOA


SPMMMV, a non-profit organization that works to save and share the one-of-a-kind Vanka Murals in Millvale, PA just outside Pittsburgh, joins with the Carnegie Museum of Art to offer this Kress Fellowship opportunity. The Kress Fellow will spend 70% of their time as a member of the Vanka Murals Conservation Team and 30% in the Conservation Department of the Carnegie Museum of Art.

The Vanka Murals, painted between 1937 and 1941, are 25 individual murals that cover 4,500 square feet of the interior of the historic St. Nicholas Croatian Church (ca 1900). They are original, largely unaltered paintings depicting themes of war, social justice, faith, immigration, and cultural identity. The artist, Maxo Vanka, a Croatian-born artist, worked in an unusual and highly-sensitive medium that include materials such as casein.

On view through the peak and decline of Pittsburgh’s steel industry, the murals were long obscured by thick layers of soot and dirt. Since 2009, a team of conservators have been working in annual campaigns to study, clean, and preserve the murals employing numerous techniques including the Baglioni Method in the treatment of salt damage. The Save America’s Treasures grant supports Phase II of Conservation to be completed between by Fall 2025. The conservation campaign in 2023-2024 will focus on the cleaning and repair of the East Side Sanctuary and a technical study of the Main Altar mural. Depending on the pace of progress, conservation of the central ceiling mural – the Transcendent Vision – may begin as early as late Spring or early summer of 2024.

Carnegie Museum of Art is arguably the first museum of contemporary art in the United States, collecting the “Old Masters of tomorrow” since the inception of the Carnegie International in 1896. Today, the museum is one of the most dynamic major art institutions in America. Our collection of more than 100,000 objects featuring a broad range of visual art, including painting and sculpture; prints, drawings, and photographs; architectural casts, renderings, and models; decorative arts and design; time-based and digital media; and installations. Through our programming, exhibitions, and publications, we frequently explore the role of art and artists in confronting key social issues of our time, combining and juxtaposing local and global perspectives. With our unique history and resources, we strive to become a leader in defining the role of art museums for the 21st century.

SPMMMV and Carnegie Museum of Art seek a postgraduate paintings conservation fellow who will divide their time between the conservation of the murals of Maxo Vanka located in Millvale, PA, and Carnegie Museum of Art’s Conservation Department. Leading cultural heritage organizations in the Pittsburgh region (and less than 4 miles apart), SPMMMV and Carnegie Museum of Art are excited to partner on this application in order to offer the fellow complementary mentorship, research, and educational resources of both institutions.

The scope of work of the Kress Fellowship is divided between in-situ mural treatment at the Vanka Murals, and bench-top treatment research and analysis at Carnegie Museum of Art (30% of their time). At the Vanka Murals, the Kress Fellow will embed within a team of 4 conservators to develop, test, and implement surface cleaning protocols for the church’s East Side Sanctuary, three murals comprising a 1,000 sq. ft. area. The Fellow will be encouraged to begin by analyzing the efficacy of past treatment procedures in order to guide their research.

The Fellow will also have the opportunity to perform a technical study of the Vanka Mural’s Main Altar Mural using analytical equipment available at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Conservation Laboratory under supervision of the Senior Manager of Conservation. The Main Altar Mural occupies 700 sq. Ft. of surface area and comprises large areas of original aluminum leafing overpainted in the mid-20 century with oil paint. Employing analytical and photographic techniques available at CMOA such as cross-section analysis and polarized light microscopy, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, multispectral imaging, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, the Fellow will seek to: characterize the artist’s working techniques; identify areas of overpaint; propose and evaluate overpaint removal techniques from original surfaces; and present treatment recommendations to the Vanka Conservation team for future treatment of the Main Altar Mural. The Fellow will work closely with the Carnegie Museum of Art Conservation team to devise analytical and sampling protocols for the lab, and perform research and analysis, condition assessments, and treatment on a select number of paintings in the collection. The Fellow will be strongly encouraged to shape their research project in a manner that culminates in a publishable paper.

SPMMMV is seeking candidates who have experience and interest in 20th century paintings and materials analysis who have some experience sampling a variety of painted surfaces and interpreting results. The committee is particularly interested in candidates who have cleaned sensitive surfaces.

The candidate must have a Master’s degree from an internationally recognized graduate conservation program by the start date of the fellowship. The candidate must be legally entitled to work in the United States. Academic background in history of art, architecture, or related arts discipline. Excellent analytical, organizational, management, customer service, and interpersonal skills. Ability to effectively build partnerships and promote the benefits of change in an academic culture that often values ambiguity, diversity of opinion, and historic precedent. Ability to communicate effectively through both oral and written expression.

Ability to work both independently and collegially in a demanding and rapidly changing environment.
Preferred: Advanced degree and/or relevant experience in history of art, architecture or related arts disciplines. Experience working with rare materials, cataloguing, archival processing and/or developing digital information resources. Teaching experience and/or customer service experience.

Both organizations are interested in candidates who, through their experience and collaborations, will contribute to diversity and excellence of their respective communities and the region.


The Kress Fellow will be provided free housing and parking on the campus of the Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka (SPMMMV) for the entire12 month duration of their fellowship. They will receive an award of $37,000, prorated over the fellowship term, along with a stipend from Carnegie Museum of Art of $7,000.


Please, submit your application via this form ( by June 15, 2023.

Application requirements:

Complete the application form and include the following:
• Cover Letter expressing your interest in the fellowship
• Expanded CV with details on educational background and professional experience

The Selection Committee will include representatives from both SPMMMV and Carnegie Museum of Art. Resumes and portfolios will be evaluated based on their ability to demonstrate fine hand-skills; their capacity for leading research questions and cooperating with scientists to answer treatment-based research questions; and ability to independently approach challenging treatment projects. Candidates selected to interview will be asked to share a portfolio of three recent conservation treatments relevant to the project and/or are demonstrative of the candidates’ hand-skills and capacity for analytical work.

If you have questions, please contact Anna Doering, executive director of the Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka, at

We encourage candidates to apply who embrace a multi-cultural, diverse, and inclusive workplace and who strive to incorporate those values into their work.
The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka and Carnegie Museum of Art are affirmative action/equal opportunity employers. Each values diversity and strongly encourages applications from women and members of underrepresented minority groups.

The following PA Act 153 clearances, or proof of application of clearances, are required beginning employment and as a condition of continued employment: 1) Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance, 2) Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record Check, and 3) FBI Fingerprint Criminal Background Check.

The above job description reflects the essential functions and qualifications for the position identified, and shall not be construed as a detailed description of all the work requirements that may be inherent in the position. The job description does not constitute an employment contract and does not alter the at-will relationship between SPMMMV, CMP and the employee.

Organization Descriptions:

Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka (Vanka Murals)

Vanka Murals was founded in 1991.Since 2009, the organization has funded the conservation of 13 of the 25 murals present in St. Nicholas Croatian Church. The support for this work has come almost exclusively from outside the St. Nicholas congregation and from diverse sources ranging from visitors to major foundations to the National Park Service. SPMMMV's stewards one of the most unique set of murals in the United States that present unique conservation challenges. It is a location where recent graduates and experienced conservators can work together to innovate techniques and treatments to save the Vanka Murals and inform other projects. Long-serving members of the conservation team have renewed their commitment to Phase II of conservation and are unparalleled in their knowledge about the Vanka Murals.

At this moment, SPMMMV has secured funding including a nearly $500,000 Save America's Treasures/IMLS grant to sustain the conservation of the high walls and ceiling murals through to completion and to take steps to ensure the long-term preservation of the murals. In 2022, SPMMMV added two Conservation technicians to the team. They made significant contributions to the work through supervised onsite training. SPMMMV will supplement its capacity for the Kress Fellowship by partnering with Carnegie Museum of Art.

Carnegie Museum of Art – Conservation Department

Carnegie Museum of Art’s Conservation Department was founded in 1980. Along with regular treatment, exhibition, and research activities, the Conservation Department supports the training and mentorship of emerging conservators, regularly hosting pre-program and graduate level conservation interns. The Department aims to provide an active and enriching environment with a focus on helping emerging conservators attain their professional goals.