Bryn Athyn, Pa. — Creating a design for a stained-glass window requires careful thought and imagination. But presenting your design to a panel of key stakeholders, in a juried competition, for the hopes of having it installed in a public building, to last for generations? That takes added courage, vision and humility.
For three students in Professor Kenneth Leap’s advanced stained glass class, this challenge was worth taking.
On Jan 9th, 2020, Tess Brown, Karen Abendroth and Drayton Mapp put the finishing touches on their stained-glass presentations and traveled 40 minutes from Bryn Athyn College to the Kendrick Recreation Center in Roxborough, PA. In the Center, in a room packed with paints, bins of stained glass and other crafts, various stakeholders began gathering, eager to cast their votes for a stained-glass piece that would soon take a prominent position over their building’s front doors.
The judges included: three teens from the inner-city who will collaborate with the College in creating the finished product; representatives of the Center; the city’s Director of Parks and Recreation; and the co-founder and director of The Stained Glass Window Project, Paula Mandel, who has helped Philadelphia inner city students create over 75 windows, which now brighten and bring color into various worthy schools, hospitals and organizations world-wide.
Professor Leap, who facilitated the presentations, asked the judges to focus on three elements of each design: the overall “wow” factor, the connection of the design to the center’s mission, and the potential for collaboration with the inner-city youth involved in the center’s Stained Glass Window Project.
Each of the three College students took about 10 minutes to “sell” their idea.
Tess Brown presented first. Her design involved figures walking toward a central geometric figure, with buildings set against a colorful sky, symbolizing the way children come from all over Philadelphia toward the warm energy of creativity and self-expression at the Kendrick Center. As Tess said, “As children come into the building they will see this image of creation, and they will go back into the world happy. It’s one big cycle of learning and giving.”
Karen McQueen then presented her design, a watercolor-style collage of 7 overlapping colored circles, and 7 open hands, representing “the wholeness, unity and protection” that students experience in the Kendrick Center, in an “unending circle of safety and hope.” Karen envisioned that Kendrick students could help add stars throughout, as well as glass frit, a substance resembling powder that could add individuality and texture to the piece.
Drayton Mapp offered the final presentation. His design, “Philadelphia,” included the city’s skyline with people on both sides, representing “the bright horizons for the youth of tomorrow.” He explained that Kendrick Center students could paint black all over the glass, and then personalize it by writing their names and creating other patterns and texture on the images of people and buildings. Drayton chose vibrant hues: “I wanted to have a striking impression, with the colors cascading on the walls and filling the entrance with color.”
After the presentation, one attendee said, “Everyone did such a wonderful job. It’s so hard to choose. Another said, “It’s amazing how all the participants had the same assignment, talked to the same people, and yet their creations are so beautifully unique.”
Kenneth Leap remarked, “I am very proud of our students, who showed such composure and ability in this challenging assignment. This is the process that takes place in most design competitions, so we replicated it as closely as possible. I am excited that this project not only gives our students a ‘real-world’ design and installation opportunity, but also builds awareness of the College’s offerings, and serves an underserved community.”
The jury voted on each piece, finally choosing Drayton’s to be installed in the Center. Now, it’s time for quick action on creating the final design. The College students are busily working to make Drayton’s design into full-size panels for the Kendrick Center entrance. Leap has arranged that students from the Center will travel to the College for a day, receive a tour, and then work side-by-side with College students in the glass lab, helping add their creative personalization to the piece. If all goes as planned, the windows will be ready and installed in the Kendrick Center by the end of February 2020, representing the power of community, service and creativity between the College and its neighbors.