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It’s Not Just About The Glass: Celebrating 15 Years Of

The Stained Glass Project: Windows That Open Doors

Co-Directors: Paula Mandel and Joan Myerson Shrager


Now beginning our 15th year, The Stained Glass Project (SGP) is a volunteer run after-school arts program that introduces under-served Philadelphia public high school students to the technically demanding artistic discipline of making stained glass.  


The program, which originally began at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG) with Germantown High School students has launched dozens of school children on unprecedented explorations of themselves, their artistic creativity, and their ability to brighten places around the city, country – and the world – where their arrestingly beautiful pieces have been installed over the years.


Each year students come every week and create magnificent stained glass windows for worthy institutions. After working so hard on them, they then donate their windows to deserving students all over the world. They receive social service credits from their schools for attending this program.


In 2013, the SGP was welcomed into the Kendrick Recreation Center in Roxborough. Now students come from Philadelphia public schools including Martin Luther King, Roxborough, and The Parkway Academy for Peace and Social Justice.


In an overcrowded room, teens, many who never took an art class, create serious minded artwork, often for the first time. In many cases it is their first experience allowing independent decision-making and self-expression through art. New friendships form, breaking down prejudices and barriers. Friendships often continue as students move on. Many have remained in touch over the past 12 years, often stopping in for a visit or joining us for our annual group trips.


Approximately 110 students have made more than 120 fine art stained glass windows that have been installed in a South African center for AIDs orphans, a New Orleans school rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, on an Ojibwa native reservation in Minnesota and closer to home in North Philadelphia, Roxborough and Covenant House for homeless youth. This year the windows went to Ibanda, Uganda to a school for impoverished students. All windows are designed and created entirely by the students, with adult guidance and supervision.


Thanks to the generosity of many donors, the SGP has traveled together to New Orleans, Baltimore, Minnesota, Washington DC, NYC and explored Philadelphia. The group has shared lodgings, broken bread and visited many cultural offerings together, including museums, galleries, and theater, often first-time experiences.


Each semester there is an amazing collaboration between volunteer adult mentors, who devote about three hours every week, and the teen stained glass artists. This time is often the only one where students can have a sustained one-to-one relationship with an adult. The SGP is a diverse group of Muslims, Christians, Jews, old, young, varying economic backgrounds, artists, designers and students working with sharp-edged glass, blue-flamed torches and protective goggles to create original stained glass artwork that becomes a part of the lives of children throughout the United States and the world.  This SGP cultural community that has developed has been life changing for all.


 Dignitaries from Philadelphia who support this program include: Tu Huynh, Director of Art in City Hall, Mayor Michael Nutter who met with and honored SGP students at Germantown High School in 2011 and in 2015 in City Hall. The SGP is proud to have received commendations from President Bill Clinton, Governor Ed Rendell, the Consul General of South Africa, Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu of New Orleans, Senator Robert Casey, as well as other distinguished individuals. PBS has filmed and published articles about The Stained Glass Project. Multiple media outlets have covered the program including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Chestnut Hill Local, Glass Patterns, and WDAS, which featured The Stained Glass Project as non-profit of the month. The American Glass Guild, bestowed the “Inspiration Award” on SGP in 2014 and the Roxborough Development Corps. The Stained Glass Association of America will publish an article about our program in their next edition.



Some of the SGP’s highlights include:


•2009-2010 Windows gifted to a school for AIDS orphans in South Africa

•2010-2011 13 students and mentors traveled to New Orleans to present stained glass windows to the Morris Jeff School as part of its rebuilding process after Hurricane Katrina.

•2011-2012 Drexel University’s James E. Marks Intercultural Center hosted an exhibition of the stained glass windows, which were then donated to The Community Partnership School of Philadelphia, in North Philadelphia.

•2011-2012 Windows exhibited at Philadelphia Visitor Center LOVE Park

•2011-2012 Collaboration with Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for Germantown Mural onChelten Avenue. Students created designs and are featured in the mural.

•2012-2013 Windows created for the Ojibwe People’s School in Redlake Minnesota. The group traveled there to present their artwork to tribal representatives.

•2013 Gravers Lane Gallery, Chestnut Hill featured SGP for Black History Month.

•2013-2014 Windows created for and installed in Kendrick Recreation Center, Roxborough .

•2014-2015 Windows created for South Philadelphia High School, in conjunction with Rooftop Farm Project

•2015-2016 10th Anniversary Collaboration with Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice

•2017-18 Exhibition at Woodmere Museum and Exhibition at Temple Judea Museum, Keneseth Israel Synagogue where a special service was held to honor the students. 

  • 2019 Exhibition at Woodmere Art Museum June 15 to Augusts 25, Reception June 23. The program helped bring 15 folks from Puerto Rico who will be recipients of these windows from PR to Woodmere.

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