The Arts Committee was born in 2011 with the coming together of five artists, Stanley Burford, Merna Hesse, Michelle Murphy, Claudia Perkinson, and Carol Slavick, who recognized the need for a sanctuary facelift. Prior to the formation of this group, M.J. and Larry Lieberman provided window drapery and items from the outdoors, sometimes branches blooming with dogwood blossoms and at others the plain sculptural beauty of winter trees.
At the first planning meeting of the newly formed Arts Committee, it was decided to present a few ideas to the Religious Services Committee for a plan to create a series of window hangings that would represent each of the four seasons. Approval was granted and the committee went to work designing the first behind the pulpit see-through drape that would depict leaves. The group drove to Gastonia to select and purchase a white semi-sheer polyester fabric. The main criteria for the fabric choice was that it be sheer enough to allow an unobstructed view and yet to prevent sun from coming into the sanctuary. Carol Slavick suggested a creative technique using the insulating building material, Tyvek. A work day was scheduled and the five artists spent the day cutting leaf shapes from the Tyvek, and distorting them with hot irons. This provided a lacy effect indicating newly budded spring leaves. A few of the leaves were painted a light yellow green to add variety to the otherwise all white appearance. Another work day was scheduled where each leaf was carefully placed on the fabric in a free-flowing dance motion. Once everyone was satisfied, the leaves were glued in place and given time to dry prior to installation behind the pulpit. This drapery was in place in time for Rev. Robin Tanner’s installation as our minister on Sunday, April 10th, 2011.
The window hanging brought the group together to begin the design process for a Summer window hanging. The ultimate design depicting blues and aqua of flowing water was chosen. The artists once again drove to Gastonia for the perfect fabric that would be semi-sheer and hold acrylic paint. This drapery creation was a lengthy process with many applications of acrylic paints to create texture and depth of color, primarily done by Stanley Burford. The end result was in place behind the pulpit for the Ordination of Rev. Hugh Hammond in June, 2011.
The Fall and Winter hangings were created afterwards. The Fall hanging depicted falling Gingko leaves. A light gold fabric was chosen for this; the leaves were cut from two different fabrics, including a gold metallic net-type fabric.
The Winter hanging consists of a center panel made from silk that was dyed using the sun printing process, and two silver side panels. Real holly leaves were hand picked and flattened as much as possible for the leaf images. Marbles were used to suggest berries. After painting the silk with blue and magenta Setacolor dye, the leaves and marbles were placed randomly on it. The sun did the rest. It was hot work, but fun work since the process requires a high noon summer sun.
All of the fabrics were purchased from Mary Jo’s Fabrics in Gastonia. Carol Slavick did the hemming for all the window hangings. In addition, she designed and sewed new coverings for the, Chalice, Candles, and Emma tables using linen she donated. Table cloths for the Membership and Adult Religious Education tables in the hall were made by Carol and Michelle Murphy using a drapery weight fabric. A table runner was also made to enhance the Membership table.
Once the four seasonal window hangings were finished, it seemed logical to continue the creative process by inviting people to exhibit their own artistic creations in exhibit form on the back wall of the sanctuary. A call was issued to PUUC artists, and Debbie Lehman and Babo Janssen were recruited to lend their gallery experience to help create a professional look. Exhibit themes have been Landscapes, Black and White, Texture and Patterns, Pets and Animals, Fire, Still Life, New shows in 2015 are themed Color, Wings, Mystery, Artist’s Choice, Seasons, Water, Found Objects as Art, and Portraits. A children and youth exhibit will be installed in May. Pierre Fraser, Stanley Burford, and Michelle Murphy are the chairs of the Exhibits Committee.
Contributing artists have been Linda Blum, Regina Burchette, Stanley Burford, Connie Byrne, Maura Cooper, Trisha Cunningham, Judy Dancing, Darla Davis, Karen Dutton, Lisa Dickinson, Margaret Edwards, Pierre Fraser, Gail Haley, Merna Hesse, Anne Laukaitis, M.J. Lieberman, Deb Lung, Ilene McFarland, Mary Ann McGannon, Meredith Merritt, Cheryl Midkiff, Michelle Murphy, Krissa Palmer, Stephanie Nelson, Barasha Ratz, Carol Slavick, Angela Stephens-Owens, Bill Sutton, Deedi Sutton, Resa Treadaway, Holly Whisman,
The Arts Committee created a twenty-five year time line that stretched across the back wall. All of the photographs and dates were supplied by Anne Laukaitis, while the calligraphy banner was designed and created by Maura Cooper. The exhibit remained up for three months so that everyone could explore the history of PUUC.
Part I of this PUUC Art History has dealt with the early years of the Arts Committee.
Part II will illustrate the process of designing and creating the banner for General Assembly, and the Hands with Chalice project.