Client: Spiritual Life Center
Location: Wichita, United States
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $600,000
Ai Qiu Hopen, Bill Hopen
Humanity Memorial Inc.
Devlin Interiors Inc.
The Spritual Life Center is well appointed with quality artworks. The grounds, the chapel, the meeting rooms and hall corridors have beautiful paintings and sculpture but the entrance was unexciting and failed to announce the purpose of the building. Bishop Gerber, who built and developed the center over 30 years, had a special vision for the entry: the miracle of the wine in the Garden at Cana (John 1). Sculptor Hopen was invited to design a sculptural tableau visitors would walk through as they entered the front doors.
The drab entry way to Spiritual Life Center was to be transformed into an experience for visitors, welcoming them and offering them the spirit; walking through the story of the Wedding of Cana, guests witness the transformation of water into wine, Jesus's first miracle. Sculptor designed "scenes" from the Bible story (John 1:), framed in by architectural columns and lintels creating a garden space.(eventually vines will be trained to grow upon the lintel framework) 8 life sized bronze figures and bronze 6 water/wine jars illustrate the story. Through patina color variation, the water surface seen in jar #1 changes to wine by jar #6, where a servant youth offers a cup of miraculous wine to visitors as they enter the door.
Hopen spent several days with the space and with Bishoip Gerber, to understand what needed to be said and to understand the buildings space. When Hopen returned to Wichita he designed 12" bronze maquettes of 10 figures to tell the story and redesigned the landscape plate of street and sidewalk spaces. Hopen envisioned "set" of architectural elements to frame the space, stone columns and lintels, so he had these mocked up in foam core. In a master design session, the sculptor worked with Bishop Gerber, designer Myra Devlin, and her teams of builders and landscape contractors, they arranged and located the works, and architectural elements.
While Hopen sculpted the works and cast them in bronze, the ground was prepared, flagstone laid, lighting installed architectural elements erected and landscape planted by Devlin and her team. Hopen delivered and installed the work one week before the dedication.
We were lucky to have such tremendous creativity and help with this project. First the great spiritual/architectural vision from Bishop Gerber who envisioned the concept. Then the creative input of designer Myra Devlin and a committee SLC clergy and staff. Then the support of a crack team of builders and landscape folks who prepared the site so beautifully under Devlin's direction.