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Fairlawn church windows artist gets spotlight

1/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Black History Month event brings two churches together

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Those who attend a Feb. 3 gospel concert and open house will have the chance to admire the windows in Fairlawn Lutheran Church’s chapel.
The west side of the chapel also features these square windows with church symbols.
Small details, like the Three Kings shown above, are found throughout the stained glass windows in the chapel at Fairlawn Lutheran Church.
Photos: Kathleen Folkerth
FAIRLAWN — Fairlawn Lutheran Church is opening its doors at a special event Feb. 3 to share the artistic treasures in its original chapel.

There, in the structure built in 1959, are four sets of stained-glass windows that were designed by Douglas Phillips, an internationally known black artist from Cleveland.

Windows from the upper east side of the chapel show different ways that people minister to others, such as this window depicting those in the medical profession, shown at right.
Windows created by stained glass artists Douglas Phillips feature different periods of Jesus Christ’s life, such as this one depicting the Ascension, pictured above.
At the event, starting at 3 p.m., singers from the Arlington Church of God will be on hand to perform, followed by an open house for visitors to view the windows up close.

A committee of three church members — Ilona Stroupe, of Copley; Rod Parks, of Granger; and Bob Fischer, of West Akron — has been working to plan the event.

Parks said some time ago he was concerned with the windows when the church planned to hold a contemporary music service in the chapel. He called Phillips’ widow, Mona, who lives in Cleveland, and she came to the church to inspect the windows.

Through that visit, they learned more about Phillips and realized what a treasure they had.

“It’s a wonderful gift,” Stroupe said.

Phillips, according to a write-up on the website of his daughter, artist Elisabeth Sunday, lived from 1922 to 1995. A Cleveland native, he studied at Syracuse University and then returned home to enroll at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

“He believed in impeccable personal presentation, discipline and continued hard work to push and develop one’s artistic talents,” Sunday wrote in a remembrance of him.

She also noted he was a championship fencer and coached fencing at Cleveland State University. He also performed as a jazz guitarist and singer.

The artist was featured in the December 1971 issue of Ebony magazine, and some of the Fairlawn Lutheran windows are included in the photos.

Parks said when the Fairlawn Lutheran chapel was built more than 50 years ago, its windows were plain glass. Fischer added that a window committee formed some time after that, headed up by longtime pastor the Rev. Paul Hoffmaster. The committee researched artists, found Phillips and contracted with him for the work.

In 1967, the first stained glass window by Phillips, a single windowframe at the chancel, was installed and dedicated to church founder the Rev. J. Franklin Yount. Four years later, Phillips’ work was added to the more extensive lower sets of windows on both sides of the chapel, Parks said.

Those eight windows portray periods of Jesus Christ’s life, from the Nativity to the Resurrection and Ascension, but bring in small details of the contemporary world, such as youths playing basketball.

“I like to just sit and look at them,” said Stroupe, who noted that new details emerge at every viewing.

Parks said additional windows in the upper area of the east side of the chapel were added in 1980. That series shows Lutheran women in service to the church, as well as images of those in the medical professions and clergy.

Two years later, a group of small windows on the west side of the chapel were replaced with square stained glass windows with church symbols.

Parks said Mona Phillips told him in 2010 that the cost for the windows was $46,642, not including the chancel window.

In 1996, the church completed its new, larger sanctuary, where most services now take place. The chapel is used today for smaller events.

“The chapel is the original Fairlawn Lutheran Church before we built the new sanctuary, so over the years it has not been used as much,” Parks said. “We wanted people to appreciate what we have here and how it came to be.”

Stroupe said the committee thought it would be nice to host an event for the public and tie it into Black History Month in February. She and Fischer know Leslie Parker Barnes, the minister of music at Arlington Church of God in Akron, and asked her if she would participate with singers from the church.

Barnes, who has since seen the windows, said she is thrilled to be part of the event.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to know we have such rich history right here in our community, and we get a chance to come together and celebrate that,” she said. “This gives us reason to come together, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

She added that Arlington Church of God’s chancel choir, men’s chorus and youth and young adult choir will sing 10 selections at the event, which is open to all and free of charge.

Stroupe said those who attend will get to hear more about the windows. Refreshments also will be served.

The church is located at 3415 W. Market St. For more information on the event, call 330-836-7286.

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