Calvary Chapel renovations connect abstract art and worship

The new vision for Calvary Chapel focuses on creating a sacred space of worship through art.

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Macie Cummings, News Editor

As students returned to campus to begin the new semester, one of Biola’s landmarks entered a new golden age—literally.

With the Calvary Chapel renovations complete, students can now witness abstract art created by Danish artists Peter Brandes and his wife Maja Lisa Engelhardt, who used their talent to dedicate the space to worship, study and experience God.

Assistant director of advancement events Deannah Baesel believes that the addition of the abstract art in the chapel can add to the experience of worship.

“To me it’s a great blending of an old thing that we had on campus and kind of like an older style of architecture with this new, beautiful, organic modern way to appreciate art, and especially sacred art and sacred images,” Baesel said.

The $1.9 million project, funded by donations, took place over the summer. The space was transformed by stained glass windows along with a sculpted cross and textured wall made from plaster, both gilded in 24-karat gold.

Brandes, who was responsible for the 32 stained glass windows adorning the walls of the chapel, desired to bring back the sacredness of the space, which he believed had been lost over time due to the numerous classes and conferences that have taken place in the space over the years.

“In any room there is a kind of spirit,” Brandes said. “In your room, Calvary Chapel, there was once a spirit, but the spirit had been lost a little bit because the need of having space to teach… made you change what initially in 1975, when the church was first built, was intended for… [the use of the room] is nice but it lost some of the sacred spirit that it was first of all thought to have.”

This is not the first chapel that Brandes and Engelhardt have designed art for. Their work is renowned across Denmark and various parts of Europe. Brandes has also created stained glass pieces for a chapel at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. However, this is the first time that the couple has collaborated on a project together.

Brandes and Engelhardt are proud of their work on the chapel and were excited to share their creation with the Biola community at the dedication ceremony held on Sept. 7.

“Sometimes your wildest dream comes true, and then you feel happy, and we feel that. It is exceptional that they gave us this chance to do this,” Brandes said.

Faculty and students now have the chance to experience the abstract art in Calvary Chapel for themselves with classes and chapels routinely held in the venue.

“Art is so important when it comes to a place of worship,” Baesel said. “It communicates the ineffable, and that means trying to make an image of something that we can’t see… Having a place where you can see a story like the prodigal son or Cain and Abel come to life, it actually bridges the gap of creating a mental picture, for someone to enjoy it and appreciate it and maybe learn and understand it a little bit in a deeper and better way.”

Associate professor of English Marc Malandra played a part in the dedication ceremony with a poetry reading and afterwards praised the abstract visuals in the building.

“Abstract art can actually get you to think about the big picture of God,” Malandra said. “God is bigger than just things. God is beyond our ability to comprehend. So abstract art helps us to kind of make that path toward the unimaginable.

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