Show of angels in stained glass opens in Urbana

The windows were built in 1903 for a Cincinnati church.

Seven angels returned to their native Ohio, with last weekend’s opening of the exhibit “In Company With Angels: Seven Rediscovered Tiffany Windows” at Urbana University. The exhibit runs through December.

These beautiful stained-glass images of angels were created by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1903 and are originally from the Swedenborgian Church of the New Jerusalem in Cincinnati that was demolished when I-71 was built.

It’s somewhat of a miracle they survived. Some parishioners took them from the church as it was being torn down and kept them in garages, sheds and barns. In the 1990s, a Swedenborgian church in Pennsylvania bought them, but they ended up going back into storage. They were rediscovered in 2001, and efforts to raise money to restore them began. A grassroots organization called In Company With Angels grew out of the effort, and they undertook the responsibility of caring for and preserving the windows. The restoration began in 2004 and took seven restorers a year and a half to bring the windows back to their full beauty.

Cheryl Desmond, traveling exhibit manager with “In Company With Angels,” said the windows have been a traveling exhibit since 2008, but their popularity took off in 2011. Since then, they’ve been steadily moving from museum to museum, mostly in the east and south, but as far west as Reno, Nev.

Mark Chepp, director of the Miller Center for Visual Arts at Urbana University said, “The exhibit hit our radar about a year ago when some staff members saw it at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati. We wanted to host it here because of the beauty of the art and also because of the Swedenborgian connection, since Urbana University is a Swedenborgian school.”

Chepp said that the beauty of the exhibit is something you really must see. “Louis Tiffany was a major American artist in the 20th century,” said Chepp. “He was considered the leader of the Art Nouveau movement. This exhibit is high-end visual material. The angels are in cases and backlit, and the visual impact is, what we say in the arts business, ‘tasty.’ The scale and craftsmanship of the work is exquisite.”

“This exhibit allows you to get up close to the art,” said Desmond. “The angels are stellar works, and the way they are displayed allows you to get close to them and admire them. You can develop a personal relationship with them.”

Tickets to the exhibit are $5 each or $3 per person for a group of 20 or more. They may be purchased at the door or online at the website. In Company With Angels merchandise will be available for purchase at the Swedenborg Memorial Library during the run of the exhibit. To complement the display, a variety of programs are also planned. Admission to the exhibit is free when attending any of the programs. Photography is allowed.

Julie McDaniel, director of Library Services, said the university is excited to host the exhibit. “As a non-art type person, I am impressed with the detail in each window,” she said. “I hope everyone comes to see it.”

Partial schedule of events

Monday, Nov.19, 2 p.m., library.

Springfield Writers Group will hold “Multitude of the Heavenly Host: Writers Respond to Angels.” Local writers are invited to share their poems, essays and short stories about angels.

Week of Nov. 19-24, Mike Major’s Art Studio, 119 Miami St., Urbana. Mike will host a display of stained glass created by local artists.

Friday, November, 23, 5 p.m., Mike Major’s Art Studio, 119 Miami St., Urbana.

“Brass and Glass,” a group of local musicians will perform.

Monday, November 26, 6 p.m., Library.

Sylvia Wirsing Bryant, UU Professor of Communications, will present “Angels All Around Us: Their Form, Function and Nature throughout the Ages.” Dr. Bryant will offer insights into the enduring popularity of angels as demonstrated by their representation in many contemporary art forms. An historical journey through the changing appearances and characteristics of angels in art and examples of modern images of angels will give an opportunity to reflect on angels.

Saturday, December 1, 3-8 p.m., Library.

Champaign County Cancer Association will hold its annual tour of homes. The library and windows are part of the tour.

Thursday, Dec. 13, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., library.

Glass appraisal will be done by Garth Auctions. People may bring two items to be appraised at a cost of $5.

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