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Stained glass project brings Lehigh’s rich legacy to life

Chris Thompson’s plan for a special project in art class has resulted in a one-of-a-kind piece of art currently on exhibit in Lehigh’s Alumni Memorial Building.

It also taught the senior art major a great deal about conceptualizing a project, researching the possibilities, refining the design, lining up cooperative partners, and completing the work.

Supervising the unique project was Berrisford Boothe, associate professor of art, who encouraged Thompson to follow his creative vision.

“Chris came to me last semester and asked if I would oversee the production of a piece of stained glass, and we immediately recognized the great potential it had both for Chris and for the university,” says Boothe, who helped Thompson line up a corporate partner in Warner-Crivellaro, one of the largest stained glass supply companies in the world.

“Rightly or wrongly, it often happens that students at Lehigh only get this type of opportunity in science or engineering. In the visual arts, they rarely see any evidence of partnerships with the community.”

Symbolizing opportunities at Lehigh

Warner-Crivellaro donated all the supplies for the project, which Thompson created after studying examples of stained glass throughout the Lehigh campus.

“It was quite a process just to get to the point where Chris could begin,” Boothe says. “The assignment officially began last January, but he didn’t touch a piece of glass until May, and the final piece was done a month later.”

Although frustrating, Thompson admits that the sustained process of refining his original design was well worth the time.

“It was tough,” he says. “I was ready to get going, but Professor Boothe kept encouraging me to change this or think a certain way about it. When we got to the final design, I could see and appreciate the progression, and that was a very gratifying part of the project.”

The completed stained glass piece, which is an interpretation of the university shield, has been permanently installed in the visitor’s lobby of one of Lehigh’s most prominent buildings. It is a fitting showcase for the work, says Boothe, who sees it as artistic testimony to the university’s rich past.

“We wanted visitors to come in and be confronted with this beautifully illuminated panel that pays tribute to the institution’s architectural legacy and history, and that’s only fitting,” he says. “As much as people choose Lehigh for its beauty, it’s a static beauty. This brings it to life.”

For his part, Thompson found the process fulfilling on a number of levels.

“To me, it symbolizes the opportunities I had here at Lehigh,” he says. “It’s given me the chance to work with a well-known and well-respected stained glass outfit like Werner-Crivellaro and gain so much experience by working through this project from start to finish. It’s been very gratifying to not only have the chance to do this, but to have all the support as well.”

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003

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