The Episcopal Parish of St. Barnabas on the Desert takes its art very seriously. For its latest commission, stained-glass windows for a new music center, the Paradise Valley church sent out nearly 50 letters and reviewed the work of 20 artists.
Of those 20, the list was narrowed to seven, then finally to one: Sarah Hall of Toronto.
“She’s a great, internationally recognized artist,” said Curt Sather, music director at the church. “And every one of her projects looked totally different.”
The church was looking for art that would be unique to its message and people. But the choice came down to something nontraditional.
Hall’s idea had no angels. No saints. No religious symbols at all.
“But it was exactly right for the building. Fun and happy,” Sather said.
Hall, who grew up in Canada, got her inspiration from her visits to the Superstition Mountains. The 36 panes of glass feature both warm and cool colors, with patterns that reflect desert plants and mountains. The highlight of the piece is the design of a fire flower, which hangs just above the podium. The piece is called “Desert Crossings.”
The glass borders the top of the main room of the music building. The shapes glow in different shades depending on the direction of the sunlight and the time of day.
Hall said the designs were finalized a year ago, followed by six months of work by 65 people to produce the art. The 880 square feet of glass was installed earlier this week. Gazing upon the finished product was “restorative,” Hall said.
“When you’re working in the studio you see the small little details, and you’re cutting glass,” she said. Once completed, it “takes on its own different life.”
After so many months of work, it’s hard to let go, she said. She can’t take it home and frame the piece. “As an artist I have to hand it over to the people who use the building,” she said. And the parishioners are happy to receive it.
“In beauty we see God made the world for joy and love,” said Rector Jim Clark. The arts are “part of our Christian story,” he said.