COLORADO SPRINGS. At St. Mary’s High School, students are inspired by their Catholic faith and at times that inspiration is demonstrated in unique ways. Such was the case during the 2016-2017 school year, when members of National Art Honor Society were challenged to restore a Mary statue, which was an heirloom that belonged to one of the St. Mary’s families.
Tom Resman, a St. Mary’s parent who has recently served as chair of the board of directors, said the statue has been passed down through his wife’s family for a couple of generations.
“It was given to my mother-in-law by her mother-in-law at least 50 years ago when the family was living in Toledo, Ohio,” Resman said. “When they moved to Colorado Springs in the 1970s, she brought it with her. It sat in her backyard here for years, and one day about eight years ago I asked if our family could have it and fix it up.”
After years of exposure to the elements, the original paint was cracking and peeling. Unsure of exactly how to fix the statue, Resman decided to spray paint the whole thing white to give it a cleaner look. That worked for awhile, but the paint again began to weather so Resman asked Karen Simkiss, St. Mary’s art teacher at that time, how he should go about restoring and if it was something that she and her students could do.
“I was more than happy to take on the project,” Simkiss said. “I have restored many statues for indoor and out of doors. I knew I could advise my students on restoring Mary. None of the National Art Honor Students had worked on a statue prior to this, but they were eager to use it as a service project for the school year.”
Resman and his son had a mishap while transporting the solid concrete statue, which weighs about 185 pounds, to the St. Mary’s campus. It was dropped and broke in two pieces at the waist, which required repair with strong cement glue before the restoration process could begin. Once Simkiss and her students had the statute, the first step in the restoration was sanding off the old paint, filling the cracks and chips, and sanding it again. That took the entire fall semester, then the statue was primed, painted, and sealed to protect it once it was placed in the garden.
“It was not a challenge for the students in process,” Simkiss said, “however it took a while to convince them that they were not going to ‘mess it up.’ The wonderful part of a project like this is to see the students work together. The interaction and discussions on their work is a critical lesson that they will use over and over in the life experiences.”
Sarah Hwang, a 2017 St. Mary’s graduate, was one of the students who worked on the project. She said the intricate details, such as smoothing and crevices and painting the face, were challenging, but felt it was an honor to be part of the project.
“Seeing the before and after picture was the most rewarding part; we didn’t realize how much progress we had made,” Hwang said. “It was amazing to see an old, gray statue turn into a glowing visage of Mary. Also, seeing the look on Mr. Resman’s face when we presented the finished statue made all of the hours we spent worth it.”
Resman said that Simkiss and the students did a “phenomenal” job with the restoration. The statue now sits in his backyard again and serves a testimony to the family’s faith and values.
“At St. Mary’s we work to integrate our faith in all we do and it was great to see the art program kids have a chance to work on such an important symbol of our faith,” Resman said. “I’m ecstatic with how it turned out; it’s amazing how nice the color is. Now it is a way we can reach out to our neighbors. One neighbor was having car problems and came to our door saying that she saw the statue in our back yard and knew we were people who would help. So it’s a great way to share our faith with others.”
(Amy G. Partain is communications associate for St. Mary’s High School.)