By TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media
Religious art and other beautiful expressions of faith are the focus of the annual Sacred Arts Festival at Glencairn Museum.
During the event on April 27, visitors will see a traditional sand mandala (an ancient art form used in Buddhism in which a drawing is made in sand and used as meditation and as part of a rite), as well as demonstrators making art with ink, glass, stone and paint. Demonstrators include a glassblower, henna artist, stained glass painter, mosaic artist, manuscript illuminator, and stone carver.
Carol Stirton-Broad, of Elkins Park, is a mosaic artist and has participated in the festival before. She’s excited to return this year.
“I love the environment,” she said. “Bryn Athyn is an arts and crafts Mecca.”
Stirton-Broad, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from the Tyler School of Art, has also trained at the Orsoni Foundry in Venice, Italy, and other schools in Italy, Scotland and New York City. She’s a founding member and served as vice president and executive board member of the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia and is a member of the Society of American Mosaic Artists.
Stirton-Broad will be demonstrating the Byzantine type of mosaic using smalti, a handmade Italian glass. She usually uses a large “pancake” of glass to cut into cubes, or she’ll use slabs of marble. Making the pieces is a skill.
“In the beginning, you hit your thumbs a few times, then through avoidance therapy, you don’t do that anymore,” she said. “It’s a rhythm if you do it for a while. It’s almost contemplative.”
Italian materials are her favorite because they’re classic.
“It’s the original,” she said.
Some smalti is made in Mexico and in China, but most of those recipes are built on what the Italians did, she said.
In Greek and Roman history, mosaics of mythological heroes and secular subjects were created. In the Byzantine era, the focus was more religious, so that’s why she’s demonstrating pieces from that period at the festival. Her personal work is more modern and contemporary, but at Glencairn, she’ll be creating the head of Medusa.
She enjoys teaching (she’s an instructor at several local art organizations and in her home studio) and being a part of the thousands of years of history for her art medium.
“If you don’t share it, it dies,” she said. “I’m honored to pass it to the next generation of artists who are going to continue.”
She said once people understand how mosaics are made and how beautiful they are, they notice them more — they’re all around us.
“It’s not just seeing what was made but understanding how things were made. It’s fascinating,” she said. “You get involved when you see people do it. You can’t understand what you’re looking at until you see how it was made.”
She’s always been fascinated by mosaics herself because “of the way they reflected and absorbed light. I’ve always been interested in what light did.”
And being an artist provides “a way of expressing things that you can’t always express verbally,” she said, “I think working with my hands and making art makes me feel centered and complete.”
Stirton-Broad said that the festival is for everyone, but especially those who are “open and receptive to craft and beauty and the idea of finding a way to express spirituality through the work of the hands.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Sacred Arts Festival
WHERE: Glencairn Museum, 1001 Cathedral Road, Bryn Athyn.
WHEN: 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27.
ADMISSION: $10 adults; students/seniors $8; children 3 and younger free.
INFO.:Visit www.glencairnmuseum.org or call (267) 502-2600.
CONNECT: On Twitter @GlencairnMuseum