(315) 685-8534 — Skaneateles, New York

Purpose and History

West Lake Art Conservation Center (WLACC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization specializing in the preservation and restoration of historic and artistic works. It is the culmination of the vision of its founders to create a sustainable organization offering world-class art conservation services and educational programs in the field or art conservation and preservation.

West Lake Conservators was founded by Conservator, Susan S. Blakney, a Fellow of both the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) and the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC).  Her business partner (and sister) Margie Sutton was WLC’s business manager. After long and illustrious careers, Susan and Margie have recently retired.

The WLACC is overseen by a board of directors and its current Operations Director is Rebecca Dalton, formerly Vice President of Sales for Patience Brewster, Inc., who worked with customers in retail and wholesale throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan.

Located in the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York State, the WLACC serves numerous public and private collections. Our conservation treatments help maximize an object’s life span, restore its aesthetic quality, and preserve its historic integrity. We work as a team in well-equipped labs for maximum problem-solving and optimal results.

Our professional staff is dedicated to bringing the highest quality of skilled care to a wide variety of services including:

  • Paintings Conservation
  • Frame Conservation
  • Paper Conservation
  • Photographs Conservation
  • Murals Conservation
  • Theatre Curtain Conservation
  • Painted Object Conservation
  • Collections Assessment
  • Preservation Framing
  • Disaster Response

We are also available as advisors for any questions regarding the preservation and conservation of cultural materials and offer a variety of workshops and lectures to help promote the preservation of heritage materials.

Our commitment is to be the best at what we do. Therefore, countless hours in training, research, seminars, conferences, and work exchanges have been, and continue to be, spent with other professional conservators from across the United States and around the world. Our studies have taken us as far away as The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia and as close to home as The John D. Barrow Art Gallery in downtown Skaneateles.

Mission and Core Values

The West Lake Art Conservation Center is devoted to the preservation of cultural property from deterioration, damage, pollution, and natural disasters. All procedures carried out by staff abide by the American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) Code of Ethics.

Our Core Values:

  • the crucial importance of collaborative treatment proposal and planning
  • the combined use of traditional and modern methods and materials

Collaboration allows conservators to build upon each other’s work ensuring advanced treatment options and consistent quality control. The West Lake Art Conservation Center ensures that all staff is trained in traditionally accepted techniques. New materials and techniques are constantly compared to these and are used appropriately after research and testing is done.

Staff members at the West Lake Art Conservation Center regularly attend professional development courses, conventions, and seminars, and remain active with the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) and Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) discussions.

The West Lake Art Conservation Center contributes to the field by carrying out research and presenting papers and posters at AIC meetings. Staff members have organized, sponsored, hosted, and presented numerous workshops and lectures promoting the art and science of conservation and are committed to best practices.


Early West Lake staff

Early West Lake staff

West Lake Conservators was founded in Skaneateles, New York in 1975 by Central New York native Susan Blakney after a six-year apprenticeship in London, England. 

Susan began a career dedicated to preserving New York State’s heritage while sharing her knowledge by mentoring interns, lecturing, and hosting workshops. Professional conservation services were new to Central New York as Susan began visiting local museums and cultural institutions to build a client base. Educating clients and the public was paramount. 

As the business expanded, the company moved to a former water-powered mill. 

West Lake Conservators evolved by adding Paper Conservation to its services and expanded to its current 4,000+ sq. ft. laboratory. This allows for the treatment of works of art of a variety of sizes, from miniatures to oversized murals, and includes a designated photo-documentation room, solvent room, storage, and a designated lab for works on paper and photographs.

West Lake Conservators was recently acquired by the West Lake Art Conservation Center, which has very exciting plans for the future. The operation will be relocating to a 250-acre art park overlooking nearby Owasco Lake and into a 13,500-square-foot building, which will have labs, a gallery, a photography room, climate-controlled art storage space for our clients, and lecture space for workshops, seminars, classes, and more.

Stay tuned! The best is yet to come!

Susan Blakney, Founder

Susan is a senior level paintings conservator, distinguished as Fellow in both the AIC (American Institute for Conservation) and the IIC (International Institute for Conservation). She received a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Kentucky in 1969 followed by six years of apprenticeship in London, England, in the private studio of IIC Fellow William Fraser Lowe, where she specialized in 17th c. Old Masters. In 1975 Susan returned to the United States to establish her private practice in the Town of Skaneateles, New York. In 1981, she incorporated her business as West Lake Conservators, Ltd. She now serves in a consulting capacity at the West Lake Art Conservation Center.

Margaret Sutton, Founder

Margie has been working with her sister Susan at the firm since 1975 and has specialized in the lining of paintings. She became a master at tear repair and removing deformations of canvas paintings, murals, and auxiliary supports. She now serves in a consulting capacity at the West Lake Art Conservation Center.