Featured Windows, March 2006
Kalamazoo Public Library
Building: Kalamazoo Public Library
The stained glass windows of the Kalamazoo Public Library include three older windows that were part of the original library building and four much newer windows created a century later for its present home. The first library, constructed in 1893, included 81 windows designed by Edward J. N. Stent of New York City, who specialized in designing church interiors. A native of England, Stent had trained under William Morris, the leader of the English Arts and Crafts movement. In Kalamazoo, Stent had designed the interior of St. Luke's Episcopal Church where the first library's major donor, Dr. Edwin Van Deusen, served on the vestry. Dr. Van Deusen then recommended Stent as the designer for the interior of the new 1893 library.
Although most of Stent's fine opalescent windows for the first library were sold when the building was razed in 1958, a few were crated and put into storage in the new 1959 library by Corwin Rife, who prepared exhibits for the Kalamazoo Public Museum, part of the library at that time. The almost forgotten windows were rediscovered in 1996, when the museum portion of the library moved into its own new facility, now called the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.
When the stored windows were found in 1996, plans were already underway for a remodeling and expansion of the second library that had been built in 1959. David Milling, the project architect, added three of Stent's semi-circular windows to his plans. They were installed in the remodeled library after being restored by Corwin Rife's son, stained glass artist Jamie Rife of Hamilton, MI. One of the windows, representing Chemistry, is located outside the Clarence L. Miller Family Local History Room. The other two, which symbolize other fields of knowledge, are now in the library's Van Deusen Room.
During the same decade, artist Jamie Rife created four new stained glass windows for the library's Children's Room. Featuring scenes from popular children's books, these windows include "Mother Goose and Friends" (1991), "The First Glimpse of the Prince" (1991) from The Little Mermaid, "Rip's Deep Sleep" (1991) from Rip Van Winkle and "Tall Small Alice" (1993) from Alice in Wonderland.
Born in Grand Rapids in 1955, Jamie Rife grew up in Kalamazoo where his father Corwin Rife was on the staff of the Kalamazoo Public Museum. His parents were both musicians and Rife trained as a flutist in classical music. He received extensive art training as well. In 1975 he began working in stained glass at the Columbine Stained Glass Studio in Boulder, CO. He also studied under Narcissus Quagliada and Paul Marioni, prominent flat glass artists. Rife returned to Kalamazoo in 1979 and opened his own Chinablue Glassworks, where he taught the art of stained glass for eight years. Since receiving his teaching degree in art and music from Western Michigan University, he has taught art at Holland High School in Holland, MI. His studio is now located at Hamilton, MI. In his stained glass work, Rife often employs special effects, such as triple glazing, three-dimensional objects, and inscribing of prose and poetry into the glass. His other windows in Kalamazoo include several at the Ladies Library Association and at Bell's Brewery.
Kalamazoo Public Library was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Alex Forist of Kalamazoo.
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Text by Betty MacDowell, Michigan Stained Glass Census, March , 2006.