Artists reimagine Calvary Chapel

Artists will refurbish Calvary Chapel with new art installments by summer 2018.

Isabelle Thompson, Freelancer Writer

Artists Peter Brandes and Maja Lisa Engelhardt continue to work hard to enrich Calvary Chapel by making artistic renovations, which they expect to complete by summer 2018.


Due to the enthusiasm of donors and a special interest taken by leaders like former visionary-in-residence Roberta Ahmanson, director of administration in the office of the president Brian Shook and Paula Corey, administration has raised $1.3 million through private donations, though the ultimate goal of $1.9 million remains unreached.

Brandes and Engelhardt revealed a glimpse of their vision during an event on Nov. 17. The Danish artists have been working to produce a final product, which will display religiously inspired scenes from the Old and New Testament in the medium of stained glass. They plan to have 32 hand-blown glass panels which will bring in natural light during the day, while an original invention created by Brandes will light them up at night.

“I love stained glass windows because the stained glass window is some kind of veil between outside and inside, and when light goes through that veil, something happens, something appears like a kind of mirror reflection,” Brandes said.

While the sturdy structure of the chapel will remain virtually unchanged, the artists will drastically alter the interior.

“This is a privilege… we have a wonderful space, but we try to add something to it,” Brandes said.

Englehard has been working on the renovations for the back wall of the chapel. The enormous wall will consist of 500 tons of textured clay, painted with silicone, casted in plaster and gilded with 24-carat gold. The light from the windows and the reflective qualities of the wall will have the effect of illuminating the entire space with brilliant light, which Brandes describes as looking into infinity.

“I think how the art that is expressed in church really sets the tone. It’s important in the way that it makes you feel,” said Brianna Gackstetter, sophomore business major.

For some, art has the ability to express things that words never could.

“To go into a sacred space, you need the visual communication, which is one of God’s two languages… God speaks in images as well as in words,” Ahmanson said.


The artists hope the chapel might increase visual literacy of the gospel and bring the surrounding community together, according to the artists. They further assert that in a society that puts so much value on visual communication, art in places of worship has become even more important.

“Over the years, Biola has had more and more of an emphasis on public art and making beautiful spaces so continues that trend in a great way,” said Matthew Weathers, attendee of the event and applied instructional technology administrator.

In a community like Biola, where visual communication does not particularly have a deep history, it remains encouraging to see art beginning to transform the campus, according to Ahmanson.

“I think there is a hunger and a thirst for that communication and I hope that the chapel can begin to fill that thirst in the students, faculty, parents, friends and neighbors of Biola,” Ahmanson said.

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