Art student refurbishes St. Jude statue

WARREN, Mich. – About a year ago, Theology teacher Kyle Kopy was walking through his Oakland County neighborhood when he saw a small religious statute laying on the side of the road.

The seven-inch figure was in such disrepair he couldn’t tell which saint it was supported to be.

“I knew I couldn't just leave it there or pick it up and throw it away,” Kopy said, “so I took it home and set it on a shelf.”

In time, Kopy, who has been teaching at De La Salle Collegiate since 2014, did some research before learning he had a statue of St. Jude.

“Based on the label at the bottom of the statue, it was a Chicago-based company who employed many Italian immigrants, thus claiming their statues were made in Italy, in the mid-1900s,” Kopy said. “They specialized in chalkware statues.” 

The statue had many chips in the plaster and paint, and it was missing the flame that floats above St. Jude's head, representing that he was an Apostle. 

Last month, Kopy brought the St. Jude statute to De La Salle, where he gave it to John Hicks, the school’s art teacher. Hicks offered to have one of his students, Tyler Looman, help with the refurbishing efforts, which included molding a new flame for the top of the statue.

“It looks like it was painted once with an airbrush, so trying to recreate the texture and the color both is pretty difficult with just a brush,” Hicks said.

Looman, a senior with the aspirations to one day work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, is in his third year as an art student. He’s taking portfolio art this year.

“It’s kind of like an independent study,” Hicks said. “So after knowing how to do things, and knowing how to think about making art the students just kind of come up with their own assignments basically.”

Hicks said he selected Looman for the assignment because of his attention to detail.

“This project just kind of fit his wheelhouse a little bit more. He was the better painter of the kids that were around,” Hicks said. “He really likes to do tedious things. Earlier in the year he took apart and photographed an inkjet printer. He literally disassembled each piece. Just took the whole thing apart, arranged it and photographed all of the tiny bits and pieces and screws, and plastic clamps. He’s a tinkerer and really likes to do small, tedious work.”

Looman has already put five hours of work into refurbishing the statue, which he hopes to complete this month.

“It has minor nicks, and originally Mr. Kopy said, ‘Why don’t you have him fix the nicks and paint everything else white,’” Hicks said. “But I said let’s give it a shot and see if you can match it up and make it look decent.”

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