If you did not hear, Corvallis artist Emily Steele died in September. I remember being struck and surprised when peeking into the Allison Room during my tour of First Presbyterian Church when I was only a candidate for the position of Head of Staff and Minister at First Presbyterian. I think I was almost not shown the Allison Room, where Emily Steele’s stained glass window had been installed in 1988, as it was then being used as a playroom and storage space for the preschool . Always a fan of more abstract arts I instantly brightened up as I admired the beauty of the piece. The installation was commissioned by forward thinking Rev. John Dennis. John, along with First Presbyterian Church members like Jim and Ruth Howland, were always looking ways to promote artists, especially local artists.
Many others saw a beauty being hidden away and shortly after I was called to be the pastor here the Allison Room was renovated. Playspace for the preschool was relocated to the much more spacious and adequate Dennis Hall, and the Allison room became a place for prayers, small services, spiritual reflection, with the aid of the carpet labyrinth and where the church leadership gathers to discern the direction of the church. It is my favorite room, especially in the afternoons when the sun is setting and the light shines through Emily Steele’s windows.
I am grateful for Emily Steele’s work and her life and I am pleased that a piece of her will live on at First Presbyterian Church.