Sacred Arts Festival features master artisans – some with ties to Hollywood

Blacksmithing, stained glass painting, Tibetan sand painting, icon writing, glassblowing, stone carving all at Glencairn April 21

Visitors to Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn will have a rare opportunity April 21 to see, in one afternoon and at one venue, artisans renowned for their expertise in the fields of stained glass painting, stone carving, glassblowing, Tibetan sand painting, blacksmithing, henna body art and icon writing. Three of them have ties to Hollywood.

The annual Sacred Arts Festival, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Glencairn, 1001 Cathedral Rd., culminates several weeks of related activities as it brings together - at a bargain price and with free parking - top talent and teachers, hands-on activities, self-guided tours of the Romanesque-style castle that houses the museum and a ride to its nine-story tower for a panoramic view of the Philadelphia skyline and to see exhibits of some of the work.

To make the festival available to as many people as possible, Glencairn works to keep admission prices low, said Joralyn Echols, event manager and Glencairn’s outreach and public relations coordinator.  

Admission is $8; $6 for seniors and students with ID; free for museum members and children under four. Glencairn also offers a $20 family rate on admission for up to four individuals per household, with half price charged for additional guests in the party.  

Prior to the April 21 event, activities begin with the creation of a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala - an ancient art form - by Venerable Lama Losang Samten, the first Buddhist given permission by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, to build a mandala in the West. Samten appeared in and was a technical advisor in Martin Scorsese’s film “Kundun.”   

In free demonstrations from 1 to 4:30 p.m., April 12-14 and April 20, he will build the mandala, a circular representation of spiritual truths made from colored sand. At the April 21 festival, he will complete it, then, at about 4 p.m., will ritualistically dismantle it in a special ceremony involving chanting, collecting the used sand and pouring it into a creek-fed pond on Glencairn’s property. “The sand is poured into the water so that its healing powers can be spread around the world,” said Echols. Visitors are invited to accompany Samten during his walk to the water’s edge at around 4:30 p.m.

 Other activities on April 21 include:

  • Glassblowing. Jason Klein of Historical Glassworks in Mt. Gretna, Pa., will demonstrate multiple methods from 1 to 5 p.m. Klein, who presents his craft at renaissance fairs and festivals around the country, created glass for the films “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “The Hobbit,” and “7th Son.”
  • Icon writing by Susan Kelly vonMedicus of Philadelphia. The April 21 event marks the close of the Glencairn exhibition, “Windows into Heaven: The Icons of Susan Kelly vonMedicus,” which opened Jan. 12. The noted icon artist – niece of movie star Grace Kelly, later Grace, Princess of Monaco – recently completed an icon as a gift for the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Monaco, a commission from her cousin Prince Albert II to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the archdiocese of Monaco. She just returned from the west coast of Ireland where she was an artist-in-residence at the Burren College of Art, just few miles down the coast from Westport, County Mayo, from where the Kelly family emigrated in the late 19th century. During the festival she will demonstrate how icons are made, focusing on Celtic designs.
  • Stained glass painting workshop. Sessions from 1 to 2:30 p.m., and 2:30 to 4 p.m., with firing from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Noted stained glass artist J. Kenneth Leap of The Stained Glass Center at WheatonArts in Millville, N.J., and president of the American Glass Guild, leads the event using authentic 12th century techniques. Leap, Glencairn’s stained glass artist-in-residence, has been exploring the technique Bryn Athyn craftsmen used to recreate the striated ruby red glass used first in medieval stained glass windows, a method which had been lost for centuries. Participants in his workshop will apply glass pigments to designs adapted from Glencairn’s collection of medieval stained glass and will take home their craft. Cost: $15; $10 for members and students with ID. Includes admission to the Sacred Arts Festival. Space is limited. Reservations are required and may be made by contacting Doreen Carey at 267-502-2981 or doreen.carey@glencairnmuseum.org. Open to children eight and older; those younger than 12 must be accompanied by adult.
  • Henna body art. Demonstrations by henna artist Jumana. Visitors can get a temporary henna tattoo such as vines, geometric patterns, lines or dots, for $2, $5 or $10 per design. Henna art for centuries has been used by a variety of religions and cultures as part of ceremonies and rites of passage such as coming-of-age, marriage and birth.
  • Tower exhibits. In Glencairn’s tower, accessible by elevator, will be the work of three nationally recognized master craftsmen: stone carver Jens Langlotz; blacksmith Warren Holzman and J. Kenneth Leap. Langlotz, the stone mason for the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, who also has done some repointing at Glencairn and work in the Bryn Athyn Historic District, and Holzman will be available in the tower to discuss their crafts.

All three are instructors in the Sacred Arts Program at Bryn Athyn College in Bryn Athyn. The college, like Glencairn, helps to keep alive the sacred arts, said Echols. If visitors to the Sacred Arts Festival like what they see and want to try it themselves, they can do so through a “Weekend Sampler” the college is offering June 28-June 30, featuring sessions in stone carving, blacksmithing and glass painting, taught by Langlotz, Holzman and Leap. For additional information, see www.brynathyn.edu/academics/sacredarts or contact Dr. Martha Gyllenhaal at 267-502-2569.

Sacred Arts Festival-goers also can see a 15-minute orientation video, take a cell phone audio tour of the collections and visit all of Glencairn’s galleries. They also can visit Glencairn’s café which will feature fresh gourmet coffee, hot tea and bakery snacks from Elcy’s Café in Glenside.

The Festival offers the final opportunity to buy raffle tickets for cocktails for eight in Glencairn’s tower June 7 (rain date June 8) and a bird’s-eye view of fireworks from the nearby Abington Memorial Hospital’s June Fete. Tickets are $10 or three for $25.

For additional information about the Sacred Arts Festival, visit www.glencairnmuseum.org or call 267-502-2600.