Marquette University Police Department responded to a call on 22nd Street Feb. 2. The call came from Gianfranco Tassara, the owner of Inspired Artisans, a studio that specializes in the design, creation and restoration of custom artwork.
Tassara had received a call from his neighbor that lights were on in the studio.
“We generally turn off the lights when we leave, so I was concerned,” Tassara said.
Tassara was going to go up into the studio to see what was wrong, but thought better of it.
“So, I called Marquette (police) because they are so close,” Tassara said.
The MUPD radius extends to the other side of the street across from Inspired Artisans. Despite the radius, MUPD responded to see if there were any problems.
Police Officer Thomas Wichgers was one of the respondents. When MUPD arrived, he said the police cleared the building and found the lights were left on.
Afterward, the officers explored the building and got to talking with Tassara about Inspired Artisans business.
“When (Wichgers) was walking out, he saw a statue of St. Michael and he got all excited,” Tassara said. “(Wichgers) says, ‘Did you know St. Michael is the patron saint of the police?’ He pulled out his wallet and he had a medal of St. Michael. I thought ‘Wow, this is unique.’”
Inspired Artisans has worked on sculptures, crosses, fonts, tabernacles, mosaics, murals, stained glass windows and any other religious artwork since 1997. Its artwork is created by in-house and commissioned artists in a variety of media, according to its website. Its commissions can be found across the United States, as well as in Canada, Italy and Ecuador.
The specific saint has significance for many officers according to Wichgers.
“A lot of our guys carry around a medallion of St. Michael or a picture in their wallet or in their pocket as kind of extra protection as we go out and do our job,” Wichgers said.
“The statue has been there for four or five years as we made another one for a cemetery in New York,” Tassara said. “(MUPD) was nice enough to come here. They were nice to come here even though we are not in their area. So, we wanted to move (the statue) from here to there.”
A few weeks later, Wichgers received an email saying Tassara would like to gift the statue to the department, Wichgers said.
Inspired Artisans and Tassara moved a five-foot, bronze-colored statue of St. Michael into the MUPD March 11. The display was blessed and dedicated March 12 by MUPD chaplain, the Rev. Kent Beausoleil.
“I used the blessing for religious artifacts and/or statues and modified it for the St. Michael statue,” Beausoleil said. “I used that prayer, gathered everyone and blessed the statue with holy water.”
The statue has great significance for the police offers who inhabit the MUPD office, Wichgers said. Beausoleil said the statue is helpful for the officers to pray to the saint.
“As part of (the Catholic) faith tradition, as we believe in the communion of saints, whenever we invoke a prayer to a saint, we feel a connection to them,” Beausoleil said. ”In that prayer, the supernatural, the eternal, the divine and the human are all connected. It gives them a sense of security and what their duty is all about. It’s like having a friend with you when you go out and do your job.”
Wichgers said the direct response from Inspired Artisans was impactful for MUPD and being able to see the appreciation from Tassara was “huge.”
Tassara said he was excited to donate the statue, and he thought the statue might have more meaning at the police department the art studio.
Tassara said he was thankful that MUPD was able to help him despite not being within the patrol boundaries.
“It means a lot that they were able to come,” Tassara said. “It’s a great security. Even though we’re outside of the lines, it’s just great.”
Besides the newest addition to the police department, Inspired Artisans has also contributed elsewhere to the Marquette campus. They worked on the stained glass artwork and altar in The Commons chapel. However, Tassara said his favorite commission at Marquette is the restoration of the Old Brooks mosaic Memorial on the second floor of the Alumni Memorial Union.