Holy Week Cross Installation Brings Fresh Beauty and Light to EMS

April 15, 2022 / Andrea Wenger

??Broken??, a 12’ by 6’ stained glass cross created by Jerry Holsopple, found a new home in the naturally lit auditorium foyer at Eastern Mennonite School during Holy Week, bringing new beauty, light, and sacredness to the space.

Hanging and installing the 500 lb. piece took 10 men and a hydraulic lift with a gentle touch.

Holsopple, a professor of visual and communication arts at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), created the work of art in 2009 for use at Mennonite Youth Convention in Columbus,  Ohio. Since then, it has been in storage.

A fall 2021 production, U2 Romeo and Juliet, on EMU’s campus brought it back into the light, and Holsopple began to look for a home in the area where it could be enjoyed long-term in natural light.

[Watch a May 2, 2022 chapel presentation by Jerry and cross dedication here.]

Why this space?
A father of two EMHS alumni (Dirk ‘06 and Kate ‘09), Holsopple and his wife Mary, who was a member of the school’s dining hall team ’99 to ‘09, had been in the auditorium foyer many times for school activities.

“I wanted natural light, and if possible a south facing window, so that what you see changes with the time of day and seasons.  Aesthetically this space fits that, but more importantly the values of EMS match the range of meanings that viewers will discover with repeated viewing. I hope as people enter on their way to worship or an event that they will pause and reflect.”

The Dalle de verre technique that Holsopple used for the cross was developed by Jean Gaudin in Paris in the 1930s. Slabs of inch-thick square or rectangular colored glass are shaped by breaking with a hammer or cutting with a saw. Holsopple used a hammer, creating beautiful refraction and reflection effects.

“We are so grateful that Jerry has honored us with this work of art and centering focus of our auditorium foyer,” said Paul Leaman, head of school. “This space is an important gathering place, not only for our school community, but the broader area.”

A generous patron of the arts donated funds to cover costs of installation. Key to the delicate yet heavy work of the installation were father and son Marv and Marcus Maust, who farm in Mt. Sidney, perform metal work, and are known to tackle projects with creative know-how. Marv is a member of the class of ‘72, from Bay Port, Michigan.

Holsopple is known for his photography, videography, research on Orthodox iconography, and other visual art. He spent the 2009-2010 academic year as a Fulbright scholar at LCC International University in Lithuania, and has led numerous EMU cross-cultural groups to the region.

Holsopple earned an MDiv from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, a PhD in media and communication from European Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in Bible from  Eastern Mennonite University.

??Broken??, by Jerry Holsopple, PhD
Artist’s Statement

In my travels I have met so many people of faith who have walked through deep trauma, but who are beautiful expressions of life and hope, as creators of vibrant communities and as people who proclaim the truth. They remind one of Paul, who wrote, “we have this treasure in clay jars,” which are actually fragile and break easily, “so that the life of Jesus may be visible.”

Crosses for worship spaces are often smooth and polished, but this one starts in brokenness.  The glass is slammed into an anvil or struck with a hammer, fracturing, faceting and splitting the glass into fragments. 

Jesus’ body was broken by the political powers of his age and I have referenced in the glass his traditional wounds. Like the resurrection which comes after death, this fractured and faceted glass piece sends the light in many directions, surrounding us with hope.

Installation Dedication
The school will dedicate the cross installation on May 2 at 10 a.m., when Holsopple will share about his faith and journey as an artist in chapel for grades 6-12. Guests are welcome, or the chapel may be viewed by livestream or at a later date on the school’s Chapel YouTube channel.

The EMS arts addition, which includes the 650-seat auditorium, was built in 2005 and is used most days, year round. Students K-12 gather, perform and worship in the space. Alethia Church uses it every Sunday, and other performing groups rent or use it gratis for fundraisers and other programming.

Upgrades to the stage — including light and sound equipment — will be funded by the school’s participation in The Great Community Give on April 20, 2022.


Check out some more photos from this story

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  1. Jackie Hartman on May 5, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    This is absolutely wonderful. When we worked on the addition, we had no idea how beautiful and expressive that addition would be and how it would probably be added to. Each artistic addition lets the community know who EMS is and what their constituents stand for.

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