WASHINGTON — Work to refinish part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial where a disputed inscription was recently removed may not be done until after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Executive architect Ed Jackson Jr. told The Associated Press on Monday that a disagreement arose over the past 10 days over how to sandblast and refinish the stone where an inscription was recently chiseled away.
The side of the memorial’s “Stone of Hope” has been left unfinished because the main contractor, Worcester Eisenbrandt Inc. of Baltimore, doesn’t have insurance to complete the sandblasting with steel pellets, the way it was originally created, Jackson said.
There are color differences now where words were removed, and a slight yellow stain was left on the stone Friday when workers tried an alternate process using walnut shells to blast the stone.
”It looks unfinished,” Jackson said. “The artist is furious about leaving his work unfinished.”
Sculptor Lei Yixin, who created the memorial, traveled from China to do the corrective work and plans to return home Aug. 20.
Lei told AP that sandblasting was always a crucial piece of the project, and he did not know how it was left out of the National Park Service’s contract.
”All we have done is kind of physical damage to the sculpture because we chiseled the inscription out,” Lei said through his son, Ke Shi, who interpreted. “The sandblasting is a way to restore the damaged surface to make those damaged surfaces look uniform with the rest of it.”
National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said officials agree the work must be done, but it may have to be part of a new contract because of government rules.
The project may have to stop for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Aug. 28 when commemorative events are expected to draw big crowds. Scaffolding would be taken down around the monument, and work would resume later, she said.