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The Glory of Stained Glass: Church Art

By A. C. Slaughter

When you walk into Marvin Methodist Church in downtown Tyler you can’t help but be amazed at the awesomeness surrounding you. The light from the walls, which are darned with stained glass windows, is unlike any other. As you stand in the sanctuary you find yourself amazed at the grand glory each stained glass window produces. Maybe it’s the luminosity of each pane that transcends your immediate surroundings, other worldly, spiritual in its mere essence or perhaps it is the scale and color that evokes the most pure of heart. Whatever you wish to call it, you are amazed, taken aback and humbled before the glory that is, stained glass.

The history of stained glass dates back one thousand years and while the definite details of whose was the first and which region produced the finest is not set in stone, what we do know is how miraculous it is to think that at a time before running water, before electricity and any modern convenience, some of the world’s grandest buildings were being built and some of the world’s greatest art was produced with nothing more than man’s hands and the earth, both what the good Lord gave us. Glass making has been around since the 1st century BC. That’s a long, long time ago and since then new techniques have been introduced and perfected but the original methods still remain today. Stained glass and/or painted glass, was originally made by adding metallic salts during the glass manufacturing. Painted glass which is also referred to as stained glass is slightly different in that the colors are mixed and painted on after the glass pieces have been produced. Pure stained glass includes the colored salts in the glass making process. Cobalt, manganese, nickel, and cadmium are just a few of the minerals that make up the traditional green, blue, red, yellow, purple and white colors found in stained glass. Panels of stained glass are held together by strips of lead which you can see running through many pieces. The lead held the smaller pieces together which were fused into larger pieces eventually reaching heights of 20 feet or more. The lead started out as utilitarian but over the years has become part of the design. Bars of lead are also found running horizontally through the panels to further support the weight of the glass. (Some manufacturers still use this traditional method today although there are developments in the production of stained glass that allows for these bars to be removed.) Each stained panel is braced by a frame usually made of wood which is usually carved, sometimes very ornate to accentuate the colored glass.

The Egyptians and Romans started making small stained glass ornaments and vessels in the 1st century BC. Next we see churches in Britain start to use it in the 7th century followed by the Middle East and Southwest Asia in the 8th century. A resurgence of stained glass appears in the 10th-16th century BC. During this time period we see it used mostly in churches. Traditionally, panels told a story depicting scenes from the bible or other stories passed down through the generations. Stained glass in churches reached its height of popularity in the middles ages, and is sometimes referred to as Medieval Glass. This time period, otherwise known as the Renaissance, is when churches all over the world embraced this art and used it liberally. Made popular during the Renaissance is the circular window known as a Rose Window. The Chartres Cathedral in France is known to house the finest Rose Window ever made dating back to the 13th century.

Because of the popularity of stained glass, manufacturing companies popped up in different countries which made it even more accessible and affordable and in turn supported the popularity of the product even more so. Germany and France were two of the leading manufacturers of stained glass during this time.

19th century Britain and the revival of the Catholic Church brought about a resurgence of the art. Having fallen out of use, the rebuilding of churches in Britain spurred a new interest in the glass. The French Revolution of the late 18th century destroyed many public buildings including churches and after the rebuilding of Britain, France followed suit and rebuilt many churches mimicking a majority of their original stained glass designs. Germany was next with its rebuilding of churches in the medieval style. That brings us into the late 19th century where we find stained glass has made its way to America and into the gifted hands of artisan Louis Comfort Tiffany who is the founder of Tiffany Glass Incorporated and yes, the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany and Company.

Stained glass has a brilliant history spanning decades, making its way back and forth across the globe and although not all of us own a Tiffany lamp, the beauty of stained glass is at each and everyone’s fingertips, you just need to know where to look.

In East Texas there are churches all over that house some sort of colored glass but few challenge the grandness of the older churches found right here, in downtown Tyler.

Christ Episcopal Church, located on Bois D’Arc, has a one of a kind collection of 16 painted glass panels made by the famous St. Louis House of Jacoby. The sanctuary walls are adorned with the story of Jesus from Annunciation to Resurrection. Founded in 1866 the Christ Church began meeting in the old Federal Court Room but later completed work on the new building, the current location, in 1918. As April is the month of Easter, what could be more beautiful than taking time to view these remarkable images celebrating the life of Jesus Christ. Designed by German glass makers, the windows are made in the old traditional style with lead ribbons running through the glass. When you are in front of the Last Supper, the large window spanning the back wall, you can’t help but be amazed. It is a true and blessed work of art.

Across the street is Marvin Methodist. As mentioned earlier, their windows are mighty and luminous. The imagery on these panels is symbolic, rather than narrative, ever reminding us of God’s presence. The Anchor is a symbol of hope and steadfastness; Cross and Crown are a reward for those who are faithful until death; Fleur-de-lis is the Trinity; Wheat and Sickle is a symbol of the harvest; and the Lamp is the word of God showing us where to go. As the story goes, a trunk with all the old papers and history of the church was stolen way back in the early 1900s and since no copies had been made there are no definite dates for when the stained glass was added, who made it or what was paid for it. The sanctuary was built in the late 1800s and a remodel in 2001 added new stained glass across the bottom back of the church where the original entrance doors once stood – and that, my friends, is about all we know.

Another fun, historic story comes from First Baptist Church which is located down the street a bit on Ferguson. Built in 1913, the church went through an extensive remodel in the early 70’s. Apparently, during this remodel, the church was divided; half the members wanted to keep the original stained glass windows and the other half wanted to install new ones. Legend has it that the two men heading the charge on each side were good friends and in the end a compromise was made. The sanctuary would receive new windows but the church would keep a hallway on the second floor behind the baptistery containing the original stained glass. And the old windows made it into the hands and home of one of these gentlemen whose name will not be mentioned. The original windows were quite impressive in that they were two paned allowing them to be raised which allowed for a block of ice to sit in the window during the lovely East Texas summers. And the story is that Dr. Bailes, who was pastor of the church from 1929-1956, told his congregation that they were lucky to have the only air conditioned church in town.

The history of stained glass is thick much like the panels themselves and rich with life like the colors of the glass which just like us, come from the earth. Easter is a special time for many churches and here in Tyler, Texas we have plenty to choose from. Take time to reflect and give yourself a dose of history by visiting one of these significant churches. Whether you like the old world style of stained glass adorning your service or you prefer a newer more modern approach to worship, may your Easter be special for you and yours, ever reminding us to live a life of gratitude.

The next time you are in front of a stained glass window may you have a newfound respect and admiration for something so beautiful and that so many of us take for granted. And that, my friend, is the reason for the season.

Happy Easter East Texas.


Art in the Garden April 28th at the Rose Garden

April 28th (11am-2pm) – 12th Annual Art in the Garden

The Tyler Parks and Recreation Department invites you to come paint or draw with us in the Tyler Rose Garden, 420 Rose Park Dr., Tyler.

Join local artists of all ages to paint. Bring your paints, any medium (paper or canvas) and an easel and create a masterpiece. Non-painters are welcome to view the garden and the artists at work.

A display of artwork will be shown in the exhibit area.

This is free to the public. Light refreshments will be served in the Rose Garden Center.

Art instructors are welcome to bring their students of any age.

For more info call (903)531-1214.

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Around East Texas

TJC Art Fest: This Week, Bell Tower Arts Journal” Launch Party, International Day

stanleys bbq tyler tx eguide magazine

Tyler Junior College, the Tyler Museum of Art and others, are once again offering a spring arts festival packed with tons of events and performances. The TJC April Arts Festival will be collaborating with the Tyler Museum of Art the entire month of April.

The festival is a celebration of the dynamic arts programs at Tyler Junior College. These programs provide rich learning experiences. This event is a collaboration of The Bell Tower Arts Journal, International Day, the Tyler Museum of Art, and the Art, Music, Theater, Speech, Dance, and Visual Communications departments. Back again, the local CBS 19 will be supporting media underwriting.

The Annual Arts Festival germinated from the notion of Dr. Linda Gary (TJC Dean of Humanities, Communications and Fine Arts) a few years ago. Dr. Gary’s original thoughts of the festival bloomed from her idea of outstretching the outstanding activities that the multiple departments at the college conduct and coordinate. Why not share the greatness? There are some entertaining, cultural, enlightening events taking place at the upcoming festival. Find the ones you are interested in, check them all out, and reconnect to one of Tyler’s trademarks and come celebrate the arts.

2018 April Art Festival events include:

  • On view all of April – “Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman” and the 14th Annual High School Art Exhibits will be at the Tyler Museum of Art all month. For more info, go to
  • April 2nd-27th – A Visual Communications Exhibition will be displayed in the Pirtle Technology Building, Pirtle Phase 4.
  • Through April 25th – The Amazing Hancock Brothers will be on exhibit at the TJC Wise Auditorium Art Gallery.
  • Through April 27th – East Texas CARES Food Pantry is hosting a Food Drive, sponsored by The Art Club. Donations may be dropped off in the Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby.

  • April 16th (2pm) – “The Bell Tower Arts Journal” Launch Party will be held in the TJC Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby. The unveiling of the latest edition of “The Bell Tower Arts Journal” includes selected artwork, poetry and prose from students.
  • April 17th (9am-5pm) – TJC’s Annual International Day celebrates diversity and worldwide cultures with an amazing lineup of events and activities in the Apache Rooms of the Rogers Student Center.
  • April 17th (10am) – Distinguished Lecture Series: Hearing Each Other: Tolerance & Interfaith Dialogue will be held in the Wise Auditorium.
  • April 17th (7:30pm) – Wind Ensembles and Symphonic Band will be in concert in Wise Auditorium. Come enjoy an evening of great music performed by students in the TJC Percussion Ensembles and Symphonic Band. Free admission.
  • April 18th (12 noon) – Coffee House: Chamber Singers will perform at Tyler Museum of Art in the lobby.
  • April 18th (5:30pm) – Forensics (Speech and Debate) Team Showcase will be held in the Jean Browne Theatre.
  • April 20th (1pm) – Student Recital Series will be held in the TJC Jean Browne Theatre.
  • April 23rd (3pm) – The Student Film Festival be be held in the TJC Apache Rooms. a
  • April 23rd (3pm) – “Be An Anchor” will be held in the Newsroom, Potter 203.
  • April 24th (10am) – Rock the Garden games and activities will be held in the TJC Genecov Garden area.
  • April 24th (3pm) – Azerbaijani Music Concert & Workshop will be held in the TJC Apache Rooms.
  • April 24th (7:30pm) – Spring Choral Concert will be presented in the TJC Wise Auditorium.
  • April 25th (12 noon) – THUNDERDOME Art Competition will take place where there is only one winner – all the other entries will be destroyed by the annihilator. BYOT (Bring your own tears) to Jenkins Courtyard. Special guests will be the Amazing Hancock Brothers!
  • April 25th (2pm) – Amazing Hancock Brothers Printmaking demonstration will be held in the TJC Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby.
  • April 25th (12 noon) – Coffee House: Faculty Recital will be performed in the Tyler Museum of Art Lobby. Concert and museum admission is free.
  • April 25th-28th (7:30pm) and April 28th (2pm) – “Hamlet” will be presented in the TJC Jean Browne Theatre.
  • April 25th (7:30pm) – TJC Jazz Ensembles will perform in the Wise Auditorium.
  • April 27th – The Performance Grant Student Showcase Art Exhibition will on display in the Wise Auditorium Art Gallery.

Most events are free to attend and everyone is welcome. There is something for everyone offered during this month-long festival. Find the events, exhibits and performances you are interested in and come enjoy. It really is the best ticket in town!

Tyler Junior College is located at 1400 E. Fifth St., Tyler. The Tyler Junior College Wise Auditorium Fine Arts Building and TJC’s Jean Browne Theatre in the Wise Cultural Arts Building are located near South Mahon Ave. across from the Tyler Museum of Art. More info can be found at or call (903)510-2200.


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14th Annual High School Art Exhibit at Tyler Art Museum

stanleys bbq tyler tx eguide magazine

This Month at Tyler Museum of Art:

14th Annual High School Art Exhibition and “Sticks & Stones: Works by Helen Altman” on Exhibit

The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and most major holidays. The Museum is supported by its members, Tyler Junior College, and the City of Tyler. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001,, or email

TMA’s 14th Annual High School Art Exhibition on Exhibit April 8th-May 6th

An unprecedented number of aspiring artists from local schools will have their first opportunity for a full museum exhibition with the Tyler Museum of Art’s “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition,” opening Sunday, April 8th and continuing through May 6th at the Museum. The museum is located Tyler Junior main Campus is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. Admission is free.

What began in 2005 as a small showcase for 23 students from four area high schools has blossomed into a major exhibition and community event. This year’s juried competition, tops the previous record of 2016, spotlighting for the first time the work of more than 100 students from a best-ever 14 high-school campuses in Tyler and nearby cities.

Five outstanding works as selected by the jurors will be presented with “Merit of Honor” awards during the Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony from 2:30-4pm, Sunday, April 8th at the Museum.

The community is invited to meet the participating artists, enjoy light refreshments – and cast their votes for the annual Viewers’ Choice Award to be presented at the exhibition’s conclusion. Ballots are available at the Visitor Services desk in the TMA lobby.

“Merit of Honor” winners will receive gift certificates from Dick Blick Art Materials. All participating artists will receive Certificates of Participation and one-year student memberships to the TMA. To RSVP for the April 8th opening reception, call (903)595-1001.

Participating schools in the “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition” include All-Saints Episcopal School, Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, Cumberland Academy, Grace Community School, John Tyler High School and Robert E. Lee High School, all of Tyler; The Brook Hill School, Brownsboro High School, Bullard High School, Chapel Hill High School, Elkhart High School, Frankston High School, Whitehouse High School and Winona High School.

Support for the exhibition is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Platinum Sponsor The Rogers Foundation; and Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Martha and Randy Key, McElfatrick Charitable Foundation and Myrtis D. Smith.

“Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman”

Tyler Museum of Art celebrates the arrival of springtime with a quarter-century survey in the career of one of the most diverse and prolific contemporary Texas artists. “Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman” continues through June 3rd in the museum’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

The exhibition, organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, features more than 40 pieces spanning a dynamic body of work by Altman, a Fort Worth-based artist noted for her ability to move between various series across an eclectic array of media.

“Sticks and Stones” focuses on her fascination with flora and fauna, which “have been a much-appreciated constant in my life,” the artist said. “They have been a constant source of joy and also a source of coping.”

Altman’s specific choices of media throughout her career – blankets, wire birds, egg editions, and torch drawings, to name just a few – also reflect a pronounced emphasis on exploring the unique in the everyday.

“Many of my works use commonplace materials and objects. I respond to ready-made objects that are often discards or flawed in some obvious way,” she said. “Alterations in these familiar things elevate them and draw parallels to our own human predicament.”

Altman received both her bachelor of fine arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Alabama, as well as her master of fine arts from the University of North Texas. Her work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Art Museum of South East Texas, The Grace Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

Support for “Sticks and Stones” is provided by Collectors’ Circle Platinum Sponsor The Byars Foundation.

Special events in connection with the exhibition include: Free First Friday tours at 11am April 6th, May 4th and June 1st; and Family Days from 2-4pm Saturday, April 14th and May 12th.


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