Artists restore statues, sanctuary

St Mary's Church

Photos by Clarke Davis
Don Wendt uses an airbrush for the final touch to the restoration of the angels at St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church. Remodeling of the sanctuary is expected to be complete by Thanksgiving.

by Clarke Davis
The altars at St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church have undergone a complete restoration and now the finishing touches are being put to the statuary and the sanctuary.
“Everything from the pews forward is being restored and painted. We think it will be done by Thanksgiving,” said Larry Heinen, pastorial council chairman.
Contracting the work is Ecclesiastical Studios & Sons, Greenwood, Mo. The company consists of a three-man crew, Don Wendt, his son, Alex, and Cliff Foth.
The statues of Mary and Joseph were waiting in the wings while the  kneeling angels were being restored one day last week. The angels’ wings and candelabras had been removed and all the cracks and imperfections were repaired before they were repainted by hand and then airbrushed and reassembled.
The altars, portions of which had been marbelized over 50 years ago, have been completly restored with a new color scheme with gold gilding added.
The large walnut cross that hung from the ceiling at the front of the altar has been moved to the rear.
The church has accepted the company’s recommendation on a new color scheme that more closely matches the new stained-glass windows installed a few years ago.
The company has restored churches — mostly Catholic — throughout the Midwest. Don Wendt, the company owner, started in the business with his uncle, Michael Wendt, in 1973 when he has 17 years old. He started his own company in 1989. Alex, 26, grew up in the business, working part time and joined his father when he was 18. Foth also worked for Michael Wendt.
“Everything we do is done on site,” Don Wendt said. “And we repair the original plaster with plaster, which is mostly what we find in old churches.”
The company does not subcontract any work and to save travel time they live in the community where they are working, going home on weekends. They own all the equipment needed, including the scaffolding required to scale the heights of the high-domed churches built in the romanesque and Gothic styles.
The firm’s artistry and craftsmanship has been recognized nationally through awards from the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America.
Heinen said the church is going to stop with this project for now, but it’s their hope to finish the rest of the interior — about a three-month project — sometime in the future.
“I believe we have the right people for the job,” Heinen said.

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