Family-friendly activities, demonstrations, exhibits show religious art in the making

Visitors April 22 can create their own designs.

Family-friendly activities, demonstrations, exhibits show religious art in the making at Glencairn Museum.

What is “icon writing” and where can it be found?

Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn will feature family-friendly activities and demonstrations of religious art in the making, like icon writing, at its annual Sacred Arts Festival April 22.

The Festival, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the museum, 1001 Cathedral Rd., will offer demonstrations using ink, paint, henna, glass and stone to create expressions of faith. Visitors also will see demonstrations of manuscript illumination and of a large replica Gutenberg-style printing press. And they can create their own designs with a quill pen and ink.

New to the Festival this year is a demonstration of the art of icon writing - traditionally religious icons are said to be “written,” not “painted” - by Susan Kelly vonMedicus (, an accomplished iconographer from Fort Washington. She will demonstrate how she creates the two-dimensional images 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 the art form 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 churches and in private collections.

Also gaining accolades for his work is Jason Klein of Historical Glassworks in Mt. Gretna, Pa. (, who will demonstrate the art of glassblowing. Klein has done glasswork for such films as “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 demonstrations by 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 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, including the icon demonstration, is $8; $6 for seniors and students with ID; free for members and children younger than four. Glencairn will offer a $20 family cap on admission for up to four individuals per household, with half price charged for additional guests in the party

Running in conjunction with the Festival April 22 is the 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.

Noted stained glass artist J. Kenneth Leap, of the Stained Glass Center at WheatonArts, Millville, N.J., will conduct the workshops using authentic 12th century techniques. Participants will apply glass pigment to designs adapted from Glencairn’s collection of medieval stained glass. Painted glass panels will be fired in an ultra-fast kiln so participants can take home their creations.

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 Children between 8 and 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

On April 21, the day before the Festival, Glencairn will present “Stained Glass Tour and Demonstration/The Bryn Athyn Experiment: Replicating Medieval Glass” from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. A three-hour tour provides an in-depth look at the stained glass windows created for Glencairn, the former home of Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn, and the extraordinary collection of 12th century stained glass that inspired them. The tour concludes in Glencairn’s studios. Instructor is J. Kenneth Leap. Admission is $35. Space limited and reservations are required. Reservations may be made by contacting Doreen Carey at 267-502-2981 or

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

For more information, call Glencairn at 267-502-2600 or visit