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Unity stained glass artist honored by alma mater

Post Time:Nov 17,2015Classify:Industry NewsView:417

Terry Bengel is an artist who works in light and color, with glass as his medium.


The Unity resident, born and raised in Greensburg, has crafted dozens of stained-glass windows over the course of a career that spans more than 45 years. His colorful creations can be found at churches and other locations throughout Western Pennsylvania.


Most studios are a business, but mine was more of a practice. I was an individual artist who was willing to work his tail off from start to finish to accomplish the art,” said Bengel, 65. “I was a very little guy, but I did a lot of big things.”


He has been semi-retired since 2012, though he still does consulting and the occasional project. The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, his alma mater, named him an “alumnus of distinction” last month.


Whenever Bengel starts a new piece, he measures the space, then looks at the light.


When and how does outside sunlight enter the room? What time of day is the room used most? By carefully choosing materials, Bengel can make a window sparkle. He can fill a room with warm color, or throw rainbows against the wall.


Constructing the windows is a nerve-wracking, arduous process. Bengel carefully joins glass and lead, soldering the joints and sealing them with an adhesive to create the window panes.


You have no room for error with an opening,” he said.


He gets much of his glass from local sources, such as Youghiogheny Glass in Connellsville.


Bengel said he always was artistic.


When my brothers were off at the ballfield, I was home drawing,” he said.


However, it took him a while to find his calling.


I went off to college, and I really wasn't ready for that, so I dropped out after my first year,” he said. “I went off to New York to seek my fortune, and came home with my tail between my legs.”


In the late 1960s, not long after he returned home, he noticed the beauty of some stained glass windows in Pittsburgh. They were the work of Milcho Silianoff, a local artist.


It hit me that this was a form of contemporary art,” Bengel said.


He sought out Silianoff, who took on the young artist as his apprentice.


Bengel worked for Silianoff for seven years before starting his own studio in his grandfather's Greensburg home.


Along the way, he decided to take care of what he called “unfinished business.” He started attending Pitt's Greensburg campus, taking classes at night and working at his studio during the day. He graduated summa cum laude in 1980 with a degree in humanities and fine arts.


He spent the ensuing decades doing what he loves. Most of his work is found in local churches. The Diocese of Greensburg was a regular client.


Bengel said he is most proud of his work at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in White Oak.


It was a new building, and I was able to do all the glass,” he said. “Anytime you get to do a whole church, it's thrilling.”


He also has done numerous pieces for UPG. The massive window in the campus library, depicting a golden staircase leading from a cave to the sky, was his most challenging piece ever, he said.


We are so proud of having those beautiful windows in key buildings on campus,” said UPG President Sharon Smith. “His artwork is the poetry that enriches our lives.”


Bengel said he's slowed down because of wear and tear on his body. “The arthritis in my hands and back, I just couldn't do the work anymore,” he said.


He hasn't given it up entirely, but is taking it easier.


I want to thank the community of Westmoreland County for allowing me to do the thing I love the most for as long as I did,” he said.


Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.


Source: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/9428231-74/bAuthor: shangyi

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