“Sacred Art” Not a Thing of the Past at Bryn Athyn College and Glencairn Museum

Glencairn Museum News | Number 4. 2012


J. Kenneth Leap Conducting a Glass Painting Workshop


A Visitor Tries His Hand at Stone Carving


The Sacred Arts can be defined in many ways. For some, sacred art is primarily a thing of the past, expressions of faith manifest in the art and architecture of the medieval cathedrals of Europe. For others, sacred art is imagery created at any time or place for the purpose of lifting up the mind and spirit. This year visitors to Bryn Athyn will experience the Sacred Arts both past and present at Glencairn Museum’s Sacred Arts Festival (Sunday, April 22, rain or shine) and the Bryn Athyn College Sacred Arts Program (workshops held in June and July).

This Sunday’s Sacred Arts Festival will feature family-friendly activities and demonstrations of religious art in the making, including the work of skilled artisans who use ink, paint, henna, stained glass and stone to create expressions of faith. Visitors can also try their hand at creating their own designs with a quill pen and ink or at a stained glass workshop.


Icon of St. George and the Dragon, by Susan Kelly vonMedicus


New to the Festival this year is a demonstration of the ancient art of icon writing—traditionally religious icons are said to be “written,” not “painted”—by Susan Kelly vonMedicus, an accomplished iconographer from Fort Washington. The artist will show how she creates the two-dimensional images on wooden panels, representing Biblical themes like her “Christ Savior,” “Guardian Angel” and “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” images.

The Philadelphia native is an adjunct faculty member at Villanova University teaching icon writing and, from January through April 2013, will be artist-in-residence at Burren School of Art in Ireland. VonMedicus studied at Mater Misericordia Academy, the Baldwin School, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Prosopon School of Iconology. Her work was published in a 2008 book, “Letters from Heaven: An Illuminated Alphabet,” and her icons are found in both churches and private collections.


Jason Klein Demonstrates Glassblowing Techniques Used to Create Stained Glass


Also gaining accolades for his work is Jason Klein of Historical Glassworks in Mt. Gretna, Pa. who will demonstrate the art of glassblowing using a portable glass furnace. Klein has studied the glassblowing techniques used to create the stained glass windows for Bryn Athyn Cathedral, and has provided glasswork for Hollywood films “Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides” and the upcoming films “7th Son” and Peter Jackson’s movie “The Hobbit.”

The Sacred Arts Festival also features the work of henna artist Jumana. Visitors can get temporary henna tattoos for $2, $5, or $10 per design. Other demonstrations include a working replica Gutenberg-style printing press by Kirsten Gyllenhaal; manuscript illumination by Sarah Dressler; and stone carving by Bryn Athyn Cathedral stone carver Jens Langlotz.

Visitors to the Festival can view a new exhibition, Sacred Stories: Scripture, Myth, and Ritual running at Glencairn through June. The exhibition examines how religious people recreate sacred stories by bringing them to life in rituals that have transformative power. “For instance,” said Glencairn curator Ed Gyllenhaal, “the myth of Osiris, a legendary king murdered by his brother, was re-enacted through the ritual of embalming, which transformed the mummy into a reborn Osiris.”

Admission to the Sacred Arts Festival is $8; $6 for seniors and students with ID; free for members and children younger than four. Glencairn will offer a $20 family rate on admission for up to four individuals per household, with half price charged for additional guests in the party.


Ken Leap Demonstrates Medieval Glass Painting Techniques in Medieval Gallery


Running in conjunction with the Festival April 22 is J. Kenneth Leap’s WheatonArts Stained Glass Workshop. Session I is from 1 to 2:30 p.m.; Session 2, 2:30 to 4 p.m., and kiln firing from 4 to 5 p.m. Admission to the Stained Glass Workshop is $15; $10 for museum members and students with ID. The price includes admission to the Sacred Arts Festival. Space is limited and reservations are required. Reservations may be made by contacting Doreen Carey at 267-502-2981 or at doreen.carey@glencairnmuseum.org. Children between 8 and 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Visitors to Glencairn also can take a cell-phone audio tour of highlights in the Museum’s collection, visit the Castle Café and ride an elevator to the top of Glencairn’s nine-story tower for a panoramic view of the area.

The Bryn Athyn College Sacred Arts Program, held this June and July, is a series of four-day intensive courses in stone carving, glass painting, and metal forging taught by master craftsmen. Participants will watch demonstrations, experience hands-on workshops, examine original medieval pieces, explore buildings in the Bryn Athyn Historical District (a National Historic Landmark), and attend illustrated talks and concerts. The idyllic setting and magnificent resources offer an unparalleled learning experience.

A complete archive of past issues of Glencairn Museum News is available online here.