Minnesota Artist Designs New Paraments for Christ Chapel

Local artist Chillon Leach collaborated with the Office of the Chaplains to design three new pieces to adorn Christ Chapel.
Posted on November 7th, 2016 by

Christ Chapel's three new paraments are on display on the altar, pulpit, and lectern.

Christ Chapel received new paraments for the first time in more than forty years to highlight the natural beauty of Gustavus Adolphus College. The paraments are large, gold pieces of cloth with metallic painted liturgical designs created by Minnesota artist Chillon Leach.

Traditionally, paraments represent the seasons of the church, but some adjustments have been made to best fit Gustavus. Cantor of Christ Chapel Chad Winterfeldt was in charge of finding an artist to design the pieces to be inclusive to the entire Gustavus community. “Christ Chapel is for the entire campus. We are a Christian ministry, but we recognize there is diversity in faith perspectives. The paraments reflect the life of this place,” Winterfeldt said.

Before she designed the pieces, Leach spent time in Christ Chapel so she could truly understand the environment. “I stayed all afternoon in the chapel and watched how the natural lighting changed and moved in the sanctuary on a windy, cloudy December day. People came in to practice on the grand piano and then the organ; there were Christmas trees delivered and tours given. It is a place of life,” Leach said.

The three paraments include a depiction of the Minnesota River as it curves around Saint Peter, a forest representing the Linnaeus Arboretum, and a prairie. “The pieces have a sense of wind and movement in the trees and prairie, to honor the ‘Gusties’ because the wind is so present on campus. It also represents the vitality of the campus and the presence of a moving, creative Holy Spirit,” Leach said.

Leach has already been commissioned to design several other pieces for Christ Chapel.”The plan now is to design separate smaller pieces that will drape over part of the altar at different times throughout the year,” Winterfeldt said. The new drapings will combine the traditional aspects of church paraments with elements unique to Gustavus.

Finally, in recognition of the wide variety of events that take place in the chapel, another piece is in the works. One idea is to have a Gustavus themed piece, including a hidden “G” or the three crowns, to showcase the chapel’s academic events. The chaplains put a lot of thought into the designs, knowing they would be a distinctive feature of the chapel for years to come. “Their dedication and love of their vocations and Christ Chapel was very evident to me. This greatly influenced my work,” Leach said.

To learn more about Christ Chapel and the Office of the Chaplains at Gustavus, visit the departmental website.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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