At SGAA Headquarters, we love scrolling through the articles which mention stained glass that come across our news feed. And sometimes, those open up an interesting dive into our history.
That happened when we saw an article about Historic Seattle hosting its fall membership meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was designated a Seattle Landmark in 2018. The event website said, "the distinctive church’s design is significant in its symbolism, linking Christian and African motifs. Experience the church’s magnificent stained glass windows (which were created by the only black-owned stained glass studio in the United States) which depict black church leaders and heroes of the American experience."
And that caught our attention.
So we did some sleuthing.
Eighteen stained glass windows in the church were created by Douglas Phillips of Cleveland, Ohio.
Phillips was a graduate of both the Cleveland Institute of Art and Syracuse University. He opened his studio in 1953 and was the only African American glass artist to have a major studio. He created until his death in 1995.
Phillips was active in the Stained Glass Association of America, contributing the chapter on Lighting Stained Glass to the SGAA's Reference and Technical Manuel.
In 1985, he wrote an article for the Stained Glass Quarterly, discussing not only his career in stained glass, but his philosophy about the art.
When he started his studio in 1953, Phillips wrote, "The post World War II building boom had begun and was in full swing. New residential construction was expanding at an unprecedented rate. Each new community meant the building of several new churches of various denominations to service its religious needs. There were not very many artists focusing on stained glass. It was a great time for an artist to move into the field of stained glass and many of us did just that."
In his piece for Stained Glass, Phillips also talked about the need of artists to balance creating exhibitions and creating commissions.
"If our focus is on good art that happens to be stained glass, then this fine art form will grow and attract a following," Phillips wrote. "We must showcase higher quality original art, not Tiffany or Victorian copies. The individual artist must also exhibit in general art shows for great exposure. When I first exhibited, glass art shows were few. It was actually to my benefit, since many more people attend general art shows than go to glass shows."
For more information on Phillips, check out the website curated by his daughter, Elisabeth Sunday.