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Students' stained glass brightens St. Vincent College offices

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
Joni Mulvaney (left), a sophomore art education and theology major from Bakerstown, hands her completed pieces of stained glass to Brother Mark Floreanini, O.S.B., as they work to hang the piece over the entrance to the marketing and communications office in Alfred Hall on the St. Vincent College campus.

A little yellow bird took a permanent home recently near the office of St. Vincent College public relations Director Don Orlando.

The animal is not perched outside on a branch, but inside as a part of a newly installed piece of stained glass.

“We look out the window from time to time, and we make judgments from time to time about what kind of day it is ... but this will be a whole new dimension,” Orlando said.

The stained-glass window is the latest of about 30 installed to replace plain glass or painted transoms on many of the office doors in Alfred Hall, which houses administrative offices for the Unity college.

Brother Mark Floreanini has taught three sections of a stained-glass design class through the Department of Fine Arts in the School of Humanities and Fine Arts.

Floreanini ran his own stained-glass studio for 35 years before joining the Benedictine Order.

When he organized the first class in 2009, he wanted to provide students with a purpose to drive their artistic creations, much like he would have when taking on a client with his studio.

“I'd notice with other art courses, it seems like unless there's a specific goal in mind, the art just gets tossed or it's not important,” he said. “I saw Alfred Hall and all these ugly transoms that were painted over. ... I knew if I gave these students a job to do like that, they would learn a lot.”

Students like 19-year-old sophomore Joni Mulvaney met with the staff in the office where the window was to be placed, then took measurements and discussed design and color patterns.

Mulvaney, an art education and theology major from Bakerstown in Allegheny County, said she has a penchant for outdoor scenes, especially with birds. Orlando and the public relations staff were amenable.

The 29- by 34-inch window complements another over the main door of the office with its yellow, green and pink color palette, Mulvaney said.

Many of the other windows on the third and fourth floors feature crosses, flowers or geometric designs.

About eight students and four adult learners had to cut the glass, arrange it with lead strips and solder the pieces together to produce the window.

Patterns require simplification and linear shape unique to glass, Mulvaney said.

“For stained glass, you can't have too curved of a line. You can't really cut a circle of glass; it will just break,” she said.

Students used up one or two boxes of adhesive bandages nursing cuts while mastering manipulation of the glass, Floreanini said.

The yellow bird's body is two pieces instead of one after a break, Mulvaney said.

After working with photography and drawing, she plans to share her newfound skills in stained glass with her stepfather, who makes small windows and sun catchers.

With the class popular during offerings in 2009, 2011 and 2013, Floreanini hopes to offer a second class, expanding to teach copper foil and other techniques.

Each of the windows, which Floreanini estimated would cost $1,000 if custom-designed by a studio, is engraved with each student's name for a lasting impression on Alfred Hall.

Acknowledgment of the students' work could point visitors to a future, more legible plaque, Orlando said.

For now, he's just glad to have the yellow bird as a landmark near his office.

“That will be a much improvement from what I tell (visitors) now, which is ‘I'm the office across from the restrooms,' ” he said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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