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Window of the Month
St. Paul's Catholic Church, Onaway, Michigan: artists Peter and Christel Brahm

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Featured Windows, July 2015

Kanley Chapel, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Building: Kanley Chapel

City: Kalamazoo

State: Michigan

An interfaith chapel had been in the works since the late 1940's but was delayed due to World War II. The architect Ralph Calder (1894-1969) eventually designed many of the buildings on the Western Michigan campus, in addition to many high school and college campuses around Michigan.  When the chapel was completed in 1951, there were many windows the art department instructors, Hazel Paden (1892-1985) and Lydia Siedschlag (1891-1980) felt needed stained glass.  Arrangements were made with Willet Studio in Philadelphia for the first “block” of fifteen windows which were dedicated in 1960.  New research has revealed these windows were designed by students, but the Willet Studio did the actual fabrication and installation.   Miss Lydia was pleased with the results and, with Mr. Willet’s blessings the art students continued designing the balance of the windows for the Chapel.  Mr. Willet realized the importance of the creative process involving students in their own chapel where their work would be appreciated by the future generations of WMU students.

Willet Studio artist designer Marguerite Gaudin (1909-1991) provided suggested sketches to serve as a guidance tool for the student artists.   Knowing the glass Willet’s had on hand, the colors were first suggested by Willet Studio, but in the end chosen by the individual students – for the most part strong colors, with strong geometry and strong lead lines.    

 

“Miss Paden spent the first part of each semester with such things as "articulated shapes, geometric progression, rhythmical chromatic design, dominant motion and Rudolph Schaeffer's simplification of Munsell's theory of color.  We did several preliminary studies in black and white before even thinking about color.  Everything just fell into place.  The students were in complete control as I recall but I am sure if we were off track, Miss Paden wooed us back to where we should be.  If she manipulated us, it was done so artfully that we were not aware of it...at least I wasn't.  I think Mr. Willet stayed out of the picture UNTIL it came time for fabrication.  If a color was impossible to capture faithfully, he let us know.  If "stars looked like bugs," he let us know.  If an area needed to be broken up in a few more sections to strengthen the window, we were advised of it.  In a very short time, we were a well-oiled machine...”  S. Snyder correspondence with B. Krueger


According  to Sherwood Snyder (class of ’57) who between 2010 and 2014 researched information about the stained glass, 169 students designed cartoons for the chapel with 65 being selected for actual fabrication.  Most of the cartoons have been framed and are on display in the chapel and throughout the campus.  Great efforts were made to identify all the students involved in the project, and most have been located….some deceased, some married so their names changed, some with children attending WMU who had no knowledge of their parents or grandparents involvement in the project….and the student artists are all listed in the recently published book with graduation years noted.  In addition, many of the windows were donated as memorials for military personnel, relatives and friends and university sponsors.

Sherwood Snyder spent many days driving between his home in western Michigan and the WMU campus in Kalamazoo researching the stained glass windows and the entire situation.  He took it upon himself to take a “step back in time” to locate the students who did the work (in addition to himself) and then publish the book which features the windows. (Inquiries about the book at sssrho@gmail.com


Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 1997.0017)

Text by Barbara Kreuger, Michigan Stained Glass Census, July , 2015.