Recycled-glass art enlivens classrooms

January 7, 2010

They say one person's trash is another's treasure. St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Louisville, Kentucky, exhibits evidence that one person's trash is everyone's treasure. The folk art adorning the school classrooms is painted on discarded windows and recycled cardboard.

The artist, Lauren Becker, is the director of the parish's new community preschool. While her profession is education and mathematics, her passion has been art since she was young.

"My room was always full of art supplies," she said. "All I wanted for my birthday and Christmas were art supplies."

For years, Becker painted in conventional media. Then, one day, a former employer discarded an expensive window from a building under renovation.

Hating to see it go to waste, Becker took it home and tried painting on its surface with acrylic paints. The glass proved to be an ideal medium. Polyurethane added a protective shine.

Before long, Becker started driving around neighborhoods at junk pickup time, looking for windows. She estimated that she had painted 100 or more, working on her art most evenings at home as a way to decompress from the stresses of her work day and refresh her spirit.

Everything in her window art is recycled to fashion the three-dimensional objects, from arks to angels to bright spring flowers, that pop forward from her folk art paintings.

When Becker gave a painting to Debbi Rodahaffer at St. Matthew's, the director of Christian education was captivated. "Lauren's 'Butterfly' painting immediately found a home in my office," she said. "It's an incredible gift to live with Lauren's art because the whimsy draws you in and the joy lingers." She quickly offered a commission to Becker to decorate the church school with her window art.

Becker agreed to sell the parish a few. Then, inspired, she donated many more.

Now a colorful gallery of painted windows adorns the corridors and classroom walls of the preschool and other church-school rooms. Some bear biblical themes. Others take their inspiration from children's stories. And more are on the way.

Why windows? "People are like windows," Becker said, reading from a children's book quote featured in one of her paintings. "They sparkle and shine when the sun is out. But when darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.

"The light for me is my church, my religion," she said.


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