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Artwork welcomes visitors, members to church's center

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Artist Jeremy Jarvis poses for a portrait with a painting he created for Bethel International Methodist Church, 1220 Bethel Road.
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The visual ministry at a Northwest Side church with a long history, but a new name has come up with a winner, in the eyes of the Rev. Mike Pratt.

A large work by Easton-area artist Jeremy Jarvis now decorates the lobby of the Family Life Center of the Bethel International United Methodist Church, whose members decided a while ago to add the word "international" to the name to reflect the growing diversity of the neighborhood.

"It couldn't be a better focal point as people enter our Family Life Center," Pratt said last week.

"It draws together in a worldly fashion who we are as a body of Christ. The colors and the design are just captivating," he said.

"I want someone as they walk into the church to feel caught in a sense, caught in the web of God's love."

Pratt has been the minister of the congregation for almost four years. The church was established in 1842, according to the church website, and subsequently erected the first building on the site of what is now the Refectory Restaurant and Bistro. The church is now at 1220 Bethel Road.

The decision to commission a piece of art for the entryway of the church where the contemporary service is held came out of the Artistic Task Force Judy Tackett and Sheryl Stoll formed after Tackett, a Clintonville resident, took over as chairwoman of the visual ministry.

"I was the natural choice to get involved with the Artistic Task Force, and that came about because we wanted to make some changes to our Family Life Center," Tackett said.

"We decided that the first thing we wanted to do was make a warm, inviting welcome to people coming into that part of the church," she said.

"We wanted to have a signature piece that gave a warm welcome to anyone coming in."

But how to be warm and welcoming? What should the piece look like?

Those were vexing questions, until they answered themselves.

"The subject matter itself sort of came to us during the process," Tackett said. "It was sort of inspirational."

The inspiration came while she was sitting in the sanctuary and glanced up at one of the stained glass windows.

"That's what I was visualizing, something that was similar to what we had in that part of the church," Tackett said.

At first, she and Stoll contemplated having a stained glass window on the entry wall, but that would have been too heavy. So they decided to find an artist who could replicate a stained glass window in a painting or mural.

"Once we had that idea in mind, and just that, I contacted the Columbus College of Art and Design," Tackett said. "It was very important for us to use local people."

Expecting students to respond, the task force members were surprised when two graduates of CCAD, including Jarvis, got in touch, went through interviews and submitted designs.

Jarvis, according to his website, grew up in the southeast Michigan town of Romeo. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then the Columbus College of Art and Design.

His work appears in private collections throughout the United States and as far away as Africa, the site states.

"They were both good, but his met more what we had in mind," Tackett said.

"I really enjoy working with churches and producing work for churches," Jarvis said.

"Being that I'm a Christian myself, it fits in pretty well with what I like to do with my art," he said.

"Technically, I really wanted to replicate the look of stained glass," Jarvis said.

"The church has a lot of stained glass in their building and that's a really important thing for them. It turned out great as far as I was concerned."

And as far as members of the congregation are concerned, according to Tackett.

"Anytime you try to do something with a church, especially one that size, you're prepared for the naysayers, but we absolutely haven't had that," Tackett said.

"It's been amazing," she said. "I felt very blessed to have this happen. It's gotten me more involved in the church all the way."

"It has that eternal quality to it," Pratt said. "It will have that same effect of catching people 50 years from now as it does today."

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