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Tapestry tethering history from old vestments and church hangings

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

by Nolan Kelley

When we enter the north red doors of our church we find ourselves welcomed by stained glass images of the four evangelists: The bearers of “The Good News”! As we complete the final furnishings and art for Gerhart Hall, the Heavenly Rest Art and Design Committee, the Chair of the Furnishings Committee, and the Chair of the Altar Guild have some exciting news to share.

First, a little background. The search for a meaningful, appropriate work of art to hang on the south wall of the east entry to Gerhart Hall has taken time and patience. The internet was searched for paintings, historic tapestries, wood carvings, relief sculpture, and the list goes on. Some beautiful pieces of art were found, but nothing that seemed appropriate for the space. In casual discussions as we bumped in to each other, we began to realize that nothing we had looked at spoke of Parson Gerhart, or had any authentic connection to this gorgeous space named Gerhart Hall. The concern was how can we find something like this. Three members of Art and Design, the Furnishing Committee Chair, and the Altar Guild Chair were discussing this dilemma. The Altar Guild Chair just happened to say, “Don’t forget that in the bottom of the cedar chest in the sacristy. We have all of those mix matched pieces vestments, altar and pulpit hangings that date back to Parson’s era. They have been saved for history”.

Bishop Mayer has said many times: “There is no such thing as coincidence.” I agree. This is how it worked: the Furnishings Committee Chair had recently seen a beautiful church tapestry of multi colors and textures of fabric that had been fabricated in Venice, Italy by Bevilacqua Tessutti Studio whose works date back centuries. Claire Carlson who had heard about our task, had visited their studio in Venice and could also verify the quality of their work. The three chairs worked together to view and photograph the preserved fabric items. The Furnishings Committee Chair, Jill Bishop, worked with the studio in Venice and was invaluable in this role. With these photos the Venice artisans were able to do several visual photo mockups, which were sent to be critiqued and returned with suggested changes. June 8 the Art and Design Committee met two at a time with the chair to discuss and evaluate. The vote to pursue the project was unanimously approved. The CHR fabrics were boxed and shipped to Bevilacqua along with various suggestions for possible consideration. On July 7, I sent each Art and Design member a mockup photo from Bevilacqua with the changes that had been made. It was approved unanimously. “Good News” for sure. We hope to have a beautiful surprise for all to see in September with “Tidings of Joy.”

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