Art for everyone | Sammamish church unveils community masterpiece
By KEVIN ENDEJAN
Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor
June 28, 2012 · 9:51 AM
Nineteen months, 6,000 volunteer hours and more than 50,000 pieces of glass later, Cheryl Smith can finally take a breath.
“There’s a huge sense of pride, a huge sense of relief,” said the Sammamish muralist. “There are very mixed emotions, and just sadness that it is over.”
Smith unveiled the largest piece of her career on June 17 at the Good Samaritan Episcopal Church where she is also the artist in residence. Her 200-square foot mosaic was placed on the reredos — Latin for “wall behind the altar” — and features a brightly colored and abstract rendition of the trinity.
While there are some specific religious references in the design, Smith said the colors and images invite people from all backgrounds to interpret the vision in their own way.
“We left it to the eye of the beholder,” she said. “We wanted it to be a powerful viewing of anyone of any faith.”
Diversity was also key in the construction of the mosaic.
“This was an opportunity for people of various faiths and cultures throughout Sammamish to come together to create art and friendships,” said Smith, noting people of the Jewish and Vedic faiths, along with several other churches across the Plateau, contributed to the artwork.
Within the Good Samaritan itself, Smith directed the Liturgical Arts Committee — a group of 25 volunteers with little to no artistic experience.
The group started by creating 14 mosaic stations of the cross in the spring of 2010. The small stations, located along the inner walls of the nave, all represent different events in the final hours of Jesus Christ’s life.
It was a week after the hanging of the mosaic stations, however, things took a sad turn.
Dan Kruse, who was the church’s original architect and designed the reredos, unexpectedly passed away at the age of 60. Members of the Good Samaritan responded to the tragedy by donating money at his funeral and that’s when the idea for the giant mosaic was born.
“We felt that it would be an incredible memorial to him to beautify his wall,” Smith said.
After months of planning, construction began in early 2011.
“It’s so much bigger than the 14 stations of the cross combined and took so much longer and was so much more work and so much more creativity,” said Reverend Dr. Suzi Robertson.
Good Samaritan received many of its supplies through donations, including a special industrial grout from the Bostik Corporation and training from local representative Brian Wright. Sammamish Ace Hardware also donated grouting supplies and Northwest Art Glass donated much of the stained glass.
Smith directed the entire process by providing weekly trainings on glass cutting, gluing and placing the pieces. She said everyone in the church took part in the project, whether it was just placing one piece of glass or taking ownership of a particular region of the mosaic.
“I think that we just created very deep friendships and that was probably the most important thing — that we all created community,” Smith said.
Robertson let Smith design the entire project without any suggestions. She has since found liturgical symbolism throughout the mosaic, including representations of the Pentacost, peace and celebration.
“It completes our worship space,” she said.
The completed mosaic at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church.
Contact Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor Kevin Endejan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-391-0363, ext. 5054.