The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Aug. 15, 2022

Wis. couple provides courtroom color

The walls of the restored Van Wert County Common Pleas Courtroom are back to their original color, thanks to the efforts of Michael and Ann Blanck. (VW independent file photo)

CINDY WOOD/independent feature writer

Michael and Ann Blanck (pronounced Blahnck) can find a canvas anywhere. Their latest, the Van Wert County Courthouse’s Common Pleas renovation project, was a labor of love for the art-loving couple that owns Blanck Studios in Ixonia, Wis.

Before the first brush stroke, though, the couple had to determine the original color scheme of the ceiling in the Common Pleas Courtroom. It wasn’t as simple as one might think.

“The ceiling had been covered with a century of dirt and grime, and then covered up,” Ann Blanck said. “Fortunately we were able to determine the colors very easily and replicate them with fresh paint.”

The couple found the perfect color matches in the Sherwin-Williams Restoration™ line and they began the three-week long process of bringing the dulled and dirty ceiling back to life. It was a tall order with an aggressive timeline, but it’s the kind of work the Blancks live for.

“We love being able to meet new people and see new places,” Blanck said, adding that, although they didn’t have much free time, they were able to enjoy the friendly atmosphere they found in Van Wert.

“We checked out Main Street because we both love to antique, so we checked out quite a few of Van Wert’s downtown shops,” she said. “Judge Steele and his wife also gave us a really nice tour of the town as well, so we got to see the new schools and some other attractions. It was just a really great experience for both of us.”

When the Blancks weren’t antiquing, the couple was putting in long days at the courthouse in order to meet the project’s deadline. “At first, I believe the funding for this portion of the work wasn’t there, so we had to work through a little bit of red tape,” Blanck said. “We were able to work with the commissioners to get this area of the project approved. Once we had the final decision from them, we were there and starting the project relatively quickly.”

Even though the business is based in Wisconsin, the Blancks are no strangers to Van Wert, or more specifically, the Brumback Library, where they completed plaster restoration and faux marbling in the Reading Room at the library.

Each project presents its own set of challenges, but it’s all in a day’s work for the art-loving husband and wife team of artisans. Michael Blanck has loved and appreciated art since he was a young boy. His talent and finesse landed him an acceptance into the High School of the Arts in Milwaukee, Wis. After graduation, he continued his education at the University of Wisconsin, where he obtained a degree in Applied Studio Arts. Since then, he’s been trained in numerous satellite art and sculptor programs, and ultimately opened up his own studio in 2007.

“He definitely has quite an extensive history in the arts, and his entire career has revolved around art,” Ann Blanck said.

Michael’s knowledge of liturgical arts, stained glass and historic restoration made him the perfect choice for the courthouse job. The Blancks have quickly made a name for themselves in the industry, completing work on many notable and historic buildings, including the Auglaize County Courthouse. But each project is fresh and new and requires a different approach.

“Each project is proprietary to the scope of the job, and each building we do has a myriad of different things to take into consideration,” Michael Blanck said. “But what we did in Van Wert was similar to the Wapak job, in that we were doing historical restorations at each building.”

At the local courthouse, the couple was tasked with replicating the decorative ceiling in the courtroom, in addition to painting the ribs in between the panels of the stained glass dome. “It’s a coppered ceiling in the courtroom that has a pretty ornate color scheme,” Michael Blanck said. “What made it nice, though, was that it was easy to find the scheme and replicate the colors with a little tinting.”

Ann Blanck’s experience has been learned on the job, and in the field, where she quickly became fascinated with the process of historical restorations.

“I got my feet wet working with stained glass, and it was really eye opening to see what is involved in the process,” she said. “But you definitely have to have an appreciation for the arts and the trades in order to be really good at it.”

The couple has been called upon for its expertise in restoring several historic buildings and churches, both regionally and nationally. The Blancks said they are hoping to attend the upcoming open house, when their work — and the courthouse’s renovation — will be on display to the public.

“We’re going to take a look at our schedule and see if we can fit it in, but we’d love to come back to Van Wert for the unveiling,” Michael Blanck noted.

POSTED: 11/30/12 at 6:55 am. FILED UNDER: News