ST. STEPHEN -- This week in our "Behind the Scenes" series on WJON, we learn how to preserve paintings that are nearly 100-years-old.

Everything needs an upgrade as years roll by and that was the thought around St. Stephen Catholic Church in trying to breathe new life into several old paintings.


Fr. Bob Harren says the church has spent the last four years restoring their beautiful artwork and are finally on the home stretch.

"They were always very nice but somewhat soiled with wear and tear over the years," says Harren.

Restoring the paintings on the ceiling is the fourth and final phase of the project. Kristy Jeffcoat is a paint conservator for Midwest Art Conservation Center and says they begin by looking at the history of the building.

"We knew in the beginning they used a coal burning furnace so that kind of tells us a little bit of the type of dirt on the ceiling," says Jeffcoat.

The team then puts up scaffolding to reach the painting a get a closer look at the pieces they will be working on.

"If there is chipping paint, what kind of dirt layer is on it, if it's varnished so we start with an examination by using our eyes and light," says Jeffcoat.

Jeffcoat says minor tests are done on the painting to determine what solutions will work best based of the information they collected.

"We use different kind of products to see which ones work and they are usually tiny and you wouldn't notice," says Jeffcoat.

Once they have the right solution, it's applied to the painting and the color begins to come back. Each painting can take about a day to finish but will last for years to come.

"It's great to see the beautiful, refreshed colors of the oil paintings and to know the whole church community is behind this," says Harren.

This is the first time the paintings have been touched since they were originally done in 1920.

Art Conservators restore a 95-year-old painting. (Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)
Art Conservators restore a 95-year-old painting. (Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)