The winter of 2022-23 was a rough one for our beloved icon. Repairing it is no easy task. But don’t worry, a fix is in the works!

“Water always wins.”

It’s a phrase you hear sometimes when talking to contractors, or landscapers, or plumbers. It basically means that water tends to go where it wants, and over time it finds a way into things.

In the case of CUW’s Fishers of Men statue, water, over time (probably years) had found its way inside the arm of one of the Fishers (Simon or Andrew? Who knows?). When enough water pooled there, and it got cold enough to freeze solid (and expand), over and over, eventually the arm basically burst, kind of all at once. That’s why it looks the way it does right now.

Bad news, good news

The bad news is that it’s not an easy fix. That’s why it’s taken a while to formulate a plan. The good news is, a plan is in place and repairs should happen soon.

Jeff Shawhan

The man behind it all is our own sculptor in residence, Associate Professor of Art Jeff Shawhan. For a guy who has built a reputation as one of the world’s foremost snow sculptors, it’s perhaps ironic that he’s repairing damage done by snow and ice. But his breadth of knowledge and experience in the sculpting world makes him just the right man for the job.

If you had always assumed the statue was made of bronze, you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, it’s made of composite materials that Shawhan believes the artist, Igor Vasiljev, likely formulated himself.

“It’s basically a cement base,” Shawhan said. “There are two layers: a fiberglass layer on the inside with cement on the outside. When you have two different materials like that, everything’s about the coefficient of expansion. They shrink and expand at different rates. And it’s not a temperate climate here; it rains all the time, it freezes, it’s constant on and off. That’s where the stress comes from.”

An ongoing process

Fortunately, Shawhan was able to salvage most of the broken parts, so it’s more a matter of “connecting the dots” than trying to reconstruct the arm from scratch. It’s not the first repair that’s ever been done to our campus icon, and it won’t be the last.

“It’s always going to have to be fixed and repaired occasionally,” Shawhan said. “For instance, in the past, Dr. [Gaylund] Stone has done a great job color-matching and restoring some of the paint. It’s like building a road. It wears over time and will need maintenance now and then.”

Repairs should begin any time, he said, weather and schedules permitting. The goal is to have a fully repaired statue to greet returning students in the fall, if not much sooner.

And once again, a fully restored Simon and Andrew will be in place to remind our community of Jesus’ desire to make us all “fishers of men.”

Want in?

Concordia University Wisconsin is a Lutheran higher education community committed to helping students develop in mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and the world. To learn more or apply today, click the link below.