Windows of History
Windows on a Souderton Century
Accomplished artists and Dock parents Kimberly and Jonathan Stemler make a unique contribution to an art project that celebrates the past, present and future of Souderton.
When Univest Bank & Trust Co. renovated their office building at 14 N. Main Street in Souderton recently, they saw a unique opportunity to help create artistic interpretations of the borough's past, present, and future. Univest decided to donate the building's original windows to the Souderton-Telford Historical Society, which in turn gave local artists an opportunity to re-create the windows as works of art that help tell the Souderton story.
Dan Yocum of the Souderton-Telford Historical Society is a Univest colleague of John Duerksen, a former Dock board member and current Dock parent—and that is how Dock came to be involved in this amazing project, which is sponsored by Univest and entitled, Windows of History: Souderton Past, Present and Future. Kimberly Stemler, a local artist and also a Dock parent, with two boys at the EC-Grade 8 campus, was chosen to convert a century-old window into art that would reflect the borough's past, present and future.
"Through these original windows, residents have watched Souderton develop ever since the building was constructed in 1893," says Yocum. "The Souderton-Telford Historical Society is proud to partner with Univest on this project to preserve a part of our town's history in a unique way."
Guidelines for the artists were kept fairly loose so that creativity would not be hindered. "We wanted these old windows to become artistic interpretations of Souderton's past, present, and future," Yocum says.
Kimberly Stemler and her husband Jonathan had recently finished a large glass installation at a local church and felt like glass would be a good medium to use for the window project as well. "Our installations are generally larger in scale, and much time is spent in the location where they will be displayed," she says. "More often than not, they're even assembled on site, which lends itself to an intimacy with the space. This project was on a smaller scale, and it didn't require us to spend days installing our work on site, so we didn't have an opportunity for that same attachment. What we gained instead, through our extensive research, was a newfound connection to both Souderton and to Dock's EC-Grade 8 Campus."
The window created by Kimberly and Jonathan Stemler, as well as all the other Windows of History, will be on display during Souderton Art Jam, this Saturday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Souderton Community Park.
The intent behind this piece of artwork was to create a layered map with a historical narrative of the Souderton-Telford area. Aside from exploring online during our research, we also visited the Mennonite Heritage Center and discovered multiple maps which represented the area both before, and after, any substantial development had begun in the region.
The first layer of the map is a two-dimensional plane based on an atlas from 1848, which was before the railroad was established. The geography of the land was broken up into family plots labeled with landowners' last names. The space is vast, awaiting growth and expansion.
The three-dimensional layers of glass feature growth and development from 1857 to the present. After reading Images of America's Souderton, we recognized that the railroad brought forth by Henry O. Souder is when Souderton truly began to develop and grow. This important characteristic is defined by the negative space between the glass shapes where the tracks cut through town.
The map is also semi-topographical, which can be seen in the glass tiles and their relative positions to each other in space—especially in the areas near the Main St. hill, that iconic presence which defines Souderton. Finally, there are areas in red: Univest Bank, location of the original windows, and Dock Mennonite Academy's initial Penn View and current EC-Grade 8 campuses. It was Dock that invited us to participate in this project.
— Kimberly and Jonathan Stemler