Ellis arrived in February to supervise artwork By Christopher M. Riggs Jed Ellis still gets excited when one of his projects comes to fruition. “I’m always amazed at how – even after all the different projects over the past 30 years – that I still get energized by these buildings and by the people and the smiles,” he said. Ellis, of Palm Harbor, Fla., supervised a crew of five painters for the past five months as they transformed the interior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. “You just can’t put a price tag on the smiles when the people walk in,” he said in an interview Thursday, June 21, his last day of work in Wichita. He has watched the smiles grow over the months as Bishop Michael O. Jackels, Monsignor Robert Hemberger, Father John Sherlock, and others from throughout the diocese donned construction helmets and walked in to check on the progress of the construction and decorating. “You don’t tire of that because you know you’ve done the right thing – and it’s what you live for, it’s what you do,” Ellis said. “You want to bring these buildings back to life. It’s an honor to bring them back to life.”
An employee of Evergreen Architectural Arts of New York City and Chicago, Ellis said when he arrived in Wichita in February he first studied the palette of colors the diocese and Evergreen had agreed upon. He hired five painters to assist him and then had to determine where to start and how to schedule the painting of various areas of the cathedral. “We knew we had to work with the contractor in a certain period of time, we have X amount of time to complete each area with the scaffolding so that the other trades can begin their work,” he said. “We were very fortunate in the sense that we had excellent scaffolding, a very nice palette program in place, a good crew. We were able to accomplish that goal by re-creating the palettes and colors that you see here.” One of the challenges the painters and decorators have is that they must coordinate their work with the other crews: the electricians, the sprinkler installers, the carpenters, the stone craftsmen, and all the others working on the project. Ellis said he was impressed with the finished product describing the interior as having a “simple elegance.” He added that one of his chores was to count the number of rosettes throughout the interior so he could calculate how much 22 karat gold leaf he would need for the gilding. The closest guess among those he asked was 175 rosettes, he said. The actual number is 280. People don’t realize how big the Cathedral is and the number of decorations it contains, Ellis said. “It’s quietly very large. The dome goes all the way up to 97 feet. It’s a beautiful space to work in.” With his work in Wichita complete, Ellis returned home for a break after which he will travel to his next job in northern Wyoming, a good place to paint the summer away.