Documentary traces history of area stained glass windows


 

stained glass documentary
D.Lee Beard (center), producer and director of "Stained Glass Windows of the Shenandoah Valley," with Philip Holbrook, director of photography, during filming inside Asbury United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg.

James Madison University faculty, staff and students have partnered with community volunteers to create a documentary film that traces the history of stained glass windows in the region.

“Stained Glass Windows of the Shenandoah Valley,” produced and directed by D.Lee Beard, director of media production services in JMU’s Center for Instructional Technology, will premiere Friday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg. The hour-long documentary will also be broadcast on local public television station WVPT on Oct. 9.

Beard, whose grandfather was a Presbyterian minister in the valley, has always been fascinated with stained glass windows. “I appreciated them even as a child,” he said.

The idea for the film sprang from the Shenandoah Valley History Harvest in 2012, during which the community was encouraged to bring in local religious artifacts for digitizing. While working with JMU Libraries’ Digital Collections team to create a database of digital photos of area stained glass windows that would be available to students, faculty and the community, “I realized that there was a story to be told, and I began work on the documentary film,” Beard said.

"These windows not only serve as a testament to the people who passed away, but also in memory of the communities that chose to install them and to the people who came afterward, dedicated to preserving them. They are a connection to the Shenandoah Valley’s past and its future."

With Beard as a guide, “Stained Glass Windows of the Shenandoah Valley” takes viewers on a tour of these beautiful windows, with stops at 20 locations throughout the region, from Staunton to Winchester. Most are found in houses of worship, but not all. The film contains footage, for example, of a window in a mausoleum in Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg and features Raynal Studios in Natural Bridge, Va., which specializes in stained glass restoration.

“Stained glass windows in area churches, some of them reaching 30 feet or more in height, represent a significant investment in time and resources, both originally when they were installed, and also in the present in order to preserve them,” Beard said. The windows also vary in style and content. Earlier versions tend to be more plain while newer ones are more elaborate, in part due to advances in stained glass manufacturing. Some tell stories from the Bible or are intended to underscore church symbols; others simply add to the ambience of the sanctuary.

The documentary features interviews with Dr. Kay Arthur, JMU professor emerita of art history; Sara James, professor of art history at Mary Baldwin College; local church historian Katharine Brown; and the Rev. Stuart C. Wood, rector at Lynwood Episcopal Parish in Elkton, Va., and a maker of stained glass windows. 

JMU media arts and design majors Jenna Fries and Taylor Wev were involved in the filming, as was recent SMAD graduate Annie Horner (’14). Philip Holbrook, a community member who worked for a time in the film industry in Los Angeles, serves as director of photography.

“These windows not only serve as a testament to the people who passed away, but also in memory of the communities that chose to install them and to the people who came afterward, dedicated to preserving them,” Beard said. “They are a connection to the Shenandoah Valley’s past and its future.”

 A 90-second film trailer can be found here.

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 Sept. 2, 2014

Published: Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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