Many years ago in the East Village, NYC, once in a while my friends and I used to go to the Cloister Cafe on East 9th Street. A beautiful oasis set apart from the City hustle and bustle, Cloister Cafe had a sheltered open-air courtyard where, in mild weather, a person could linger long over a book; the interior had brick walls and stained-glass windows illuminated from behind. The impression of peace conveyed by those windows in that intimate setting remained with me all these years, and when an opportunity came via Hammond glass artist Scott Ouderkirk to bring some stained glass windows to our Gallery I jumped at the opportunity.
The angel windows now on display in the Iva Smith Gallery were designed by artist Montague Castle and his design was realized at Keck Studios of Syracuse, NY in 1932. The windows have been restored to their original glory by Scott Ouderkirk of Scott Ouderkirk Studios in Hammond, NY, and enhanced by the domed inscriptions at their crown. The inscriptions read:
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
He has made everything beautiful in its time and has set eternity in the human heart.
– Ecclesiastes 3:11
Both designer Montague Castle and creator Henry Keck had worked for Tiffany's in New York City; later, Keck worked for Castle in his studio. Their collaboration came full circle when Castle came to Keck Studios in Syracuse, NY to have his final job created. Subsequently, he retired.
The angel windows seen at the Iva Smith Gallery formed a detail of a much larger window. This was originally installed in the second Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church in Elmira, NY in 1932, in a sanctuary designed to seat nearly 1,000 people; Centenary UMC was deconsecrated on June 7, 2007.
Scott Ouderkirk received the entire window in 2010 in partial payment on a adaptive reuse project. Parts of the larger window have been sold separately. The central lancet, a 9-foot figure of the resurrected Christ, is still with Scott Ouderkirk, who hopes to install it on his own property.
The Iva Smith Gallery now displays the angels created by Castle and Keck in the early 1930s; the windows shed their ethereal light in our front upstairs gallery and can be viewed at night from the road. More information on the creators and the window's history can be found at the Iva Smith Gallery.