Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 6, 2010
Jesus statue moves to a new home
Restoration to make former landmark stronger, more resilient to Alta. weather
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
The larger than life statue of Jesus that used to beckon to passersby from the grounds of St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College on Mark Messier Trail will soon reappear on the grounds of the new seminary and college.
Allan Waidman, the sculptor working on the restoration of the landmark Christ the Teacher statute, says he only needs a couple of weeks of good weather to complete the work.
When completed, the sculpture, currently surrounded by scaffolding and covered with a tarp, will be thicker, smoother and much stronger than it used to be. It will be pure white as opposed to its yellowish-brown former self.
"I need warm weather to finish it because the concrete doesn't set in this weather," Waidman said on a rainy Aug. 30. "I'm about two weeks away. That's all I need."
The 14-plus-foot statue was disassembled and moved to the new seminary-college site in late 2008.
But Waidman says there were so many issues with it he couldn't start work on it until the latter part of July.
For Waidman to start his restoration work, the statue had to be reassembled and re-erected on its new resting place, a site further from public view than its previous location.
That happened in June when workers lifted the 10-tonne sculpture and set it on the west edge of a parking lot, next to Newman, facing east.
As Waidman explains, the 60-year-old work of art was originally made of steel framework covered with fibreglass with a cement finish.
As he visited the worksite to plan the restoration, he noticed a few things. "Somehow a hole got in the head, a great big hole, maybe from a hailstorm," he recalled.
"Then moisture got in between the fibreglass and the concrete, which started breaking off the concrete." Apart from the cracks, Waidman also noted that a finger on Jesus' left hand was missing. "It was deteriorated pretty good."
He figures the move from St. Albert may have contributed to the deterioration.
"Then it sat out here for a year in the back; that didn't help," he said. "So then this year when they finally put it on the footing and put it together it was a little bit worse than what it was back two and a half years ago."
HOME FOR SQUIRRELS
Squirrels found a home in the statue. "The base on the back there, that was full of pinecones."
At Waidman's suggestion, the statue was filled with low expanding foam insulation to prevent cracking and prevent the squirrels from moving back in.
But to put the foam in "they had to cut a bunch of holes" in the statue, which created another delay in the restoration.
In July Waidman finally began patching after ripping off all the loose cement from the sculpture.
Then he began applying supercrete concrete overlay material, which he describes as tough, durable and able to stand hot and cold, freezing and thawing. "It sticks just fiercely," he said.
Waidman guesses he has already used 10 sacks of the material and has four or five more to go. "This is not going to come apart," he laughed.
"It's a lot of concrete (or supercrete). I'd bet there is an extra 1,400 to 1,500 pounds of (extra) concrete in that thing."
Waidman says the statue will be a lot thicker than it was "because I'm adding a couple of layers." In some places, especially in the front, he probably added two inches of solid concrete. He still has to put a final coat of the white material.
"I add more depending on the spot. I know the front part was very weak; you could feel it is loose. That's not good because if it's loose and somebody climbs on there, then it's going to crack. Once you have a crack, moisture gets in and then we are back where we started."
The statue was made in Vancouver and perhaps wasn't made to withstand Alberta weather, he said.
"I had the benefit of seeing where the problems occurred over the years with the sculpture so now that I'm (re)doing it I know where I have to make it stronger, thicker or make it so that the water won't sit; it's got to flow off totally, all over."
Unlike the original sculpture, which had small indentations throughout, the restored one will be completely smooth.
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