Building and Renovation

By The Catholic Herald
Published in "The Catholic Herald" Diocese of Madison newspaper March 18, 2004

NEW BERLIN – Since 1889, Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc. has provided timeless interiors and fine works of art for religious structures throughout the United States.

From the modest Holy Ghost chapel on the island of Maui to the monumental Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame, the studio has assisted churches of varying sizes, styles, and denominations with liturgical updating and the creation, restoration, and conservation of stained glass and interior decorative schemes.

A century’s worth of experience has given the studio special insight into client relations and project flow.  Although every project is unique and possesses its own set of individual needs, most proceed according to the pattern described below.

From design to dedication, Conrad Schmitt Studios guides clients through every phase of a project.  This step-by-step approach ensures maximum levels of comfort and confidence for both parties and achieves the best possible results.

Phase I:  Needs assessment
The initial step for any church construction, improvement, or restoration project involves the formation of a committee composed of representatives from the church community.  This committee, in turn, defines the needs of the congregation and outlines the parameters of the intended project.

If the project contains many different elements, it is helpful for the committee to prioritize these items.  Conrad Schmitt Studios can assist with this task.

Phase II:  Information gathering
After the project goals are outlined, committee members should educate themselves on all aspects of the project.  This information gathering stage is critical, and the studio provides the client with detailed information regarding the procedures and products involved.  This enables the committee to make informed decisions throughout the project.

Phase III:  Plan formulation
Once the committee has acquired enough background information, the project’s scope should be fine tuned.  The master plan, including budgetary estimates and timetables, should be written at this stage.  Church administrators should take a careful look at scheduling to avoid conflict between restoration or renovation work and proposed church events, such as weddings.

If the project’s scope includes restoration, an investigative paint analysis should be commissioned to determine the original decorative scheme.

If applicable, an architectural sample could also be completed at this time.  A sample is a visual microcosm of the completed restoration.

As excellent fund-raising tools, samples heighten community interest by illustrating the intended decorative scheme.  Watercolor renderings and floor plans also assist in communicating the proposed scheme.

Phase IV:  Fund raising
The next step, fund raising, is often the most challenging and time consuming.  After presenting the approved plan to the entire church community, the committee should develop printed material detailing the goals of the project.

Direct mailings, telemarketing, auctions, and church-sponsored events may all assist in raising funds.  The possibility of applying for grants from private foundations should also be explored.  Conrad Schmitt Studios can provide clients with contact information and basic grant-writing instruction.

In addition, many projects offer a number of items that could be identified with the donor’s name, such as the restoration of a stained glass window or the conservation of a mural or statue.

Once the necessary funding has been secured, negotiations can be finalized and contracts signed.  The committee may be reduced to a few key individuals to facilitate decision-making during the project.

Keeping all parties well informed and involved in each phase of the process is in everyone’s best interest.  Project status reports in the weekly bulletin are an effective means of communication.

Finally, the church community should celebrate and publicize the completion of the project.  Express gratitude for the time and effort put forth by individual committee members, donors and volunteers.

Most of all, enjoy the beauty of the new or restored surroundings for generations to come.

•    “The initial step for any church construction, improvement, or restoration project involves the formation of a committee composed of representatives from the church community.”

•    Craftsmen such as those from Conrad Schmitt Studios in New Berlin consult with priests and representatives from the parish community during the building and renovation process.  (Photo by David Lamb)

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