JACKI LYDEN, host:
Times are tough and budgets are tight for cities all across the country. Some cities are raising taxes, others are cutting spending. And in Duluth, Minnesota they're selling windows - well, just one window actually. This week, the city council passed a resolution to sell a 115-year-old window, a huge piece of stained glass designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
And Ken Buehler knows a lot about this window - he runs the art center that houses it in Duluth. Welcome to the show.
Mr. KEN BUEHLER (Executive Director, Historic Union Depot Corporation): Jacki, it's a pleasure to be here.
LYDEN: How much are city officials hoping to get for the Tiffany window?
Mr. BUEHLER: The window has been appraised several times, and it should bring somewhere between $1.5 to 2 million.
LYDEN: Now, this isn't just a pattern; this depicts a figure quite dear to Minnesotans.
Mr. BUEHLER: Well, the window is called the Minnehaha window, and it depicts the Native American princess, Minnehaha, who of course was a character in the Longfellow Hiawatha poem. She is wearing a long and flowing robe, which Tiffany produced by taking thick glass and actually putting waves in it, so it looks like it's flowing off of her shoulders.
She is standing in front of a multicolored blue fall. The unique feature about her and what makes this window so valuable is fact that Tiffany never really did figures in his windows. It's more what the figures saw when they looked out, as a window should be. In this case, though, you see the figure and her face, which is hand-painted. And it's absolutely beautiful. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In fact, numerous Tiffany windows depict saints and other figures.]
LYDEN: Was she commissioned by the city?
Mr. BUEHLER: She was commissioned by the St. Louis County Women's Auxiliary in 1892 for inclusion in the 1893 Columbian Exposition in the Minnesota Pavilion.
LYDEN: No doubt this controversial, selling something that's been an heirloom like this. How big a loss is it, would you say?
Mr. BUEHLER: Well, you know, it's a sad thing when a community starts to sell the family jewels, and obviously, these are desperate times in the city of Duluth calling for desperate measures. The fear that we have is that the window will be bought and purchased by someone who will put it in a bathroom in Brunei.
But what we would like is to have local people of means buy the window from the city and to then donate it to a historical society.
LYDEN: Well, I can see what would be causing a lot of anxiety.
Mr. BUEHLER: Yes.
LYDEN: When is it supposed to go on sale?
Mr. BUEHLER: Well, unfortunately this is a fast track. It looks like the city council on the 15th of September will be asked to approve a resolution that would call for boxing and crating the piece and sending it to an auction house in New York City with the idea that it would probably be out of Duluth by the end of September.
LYDEN: Ken Buehler is the executive director of the Historic Union Depot Corporation in Duluth. Thanks very much for telling us about the window, Mr. Buehler.
Mr. BUEHLER: Oh, thank you, Jacki. It's a privilege and we're going to work hard to make sure that it stays in Duluth.
LYDEN: And if people would like to look at the Minnehaha window in Duluth, please go to our Web site, NPR.org.