To celebrate the church’s 75th Anniversary, St. John’s decided to install nine new stained glass windows in the church that would focus on the role of Egypt in the Biblical and Qur’anic stories. Artist Debra Balchen was approached by St. John’s Church to both paint oil paintings of these nine scenes, and then to direct and guide their fabrication into stained glass windows with the assistance of Egyptian Muslim artists, Dr. Ahmed Nabil and his son Amr.
Debra Balchen’s completed stained glass windows were installed at St. John’s Church in January 2006 and unveiled at an exhibition of the windows widely attended by those from both Christian and Muslim backgrounds.
Painting to Debra Balchen has slowly become a “magnificent obsession”. She started painting 15 years ago when her children were young. During that time she began attending the Art Students’ League in New York for studies in anatomy, drawing, painting and watercolor, and she began studying for a degree at the Academy of Art (San Francisco).
Debra has participated in numerous group exhibitions and has had various solo exhibitions as well.
Additionally, she initiated and taught a “Faces and Figures” course at ROMONA Modern Museum of Art in Kenya, and has held numerous private lessons in Cairo. She has lived in Italy, South Africa, and Kenya and now resides in Egypt. She has also always been interested in glasswork and has taken several courses at Corning Glass, N.Y.
About this project, Debra says, “As an artist I have always secretly longed to do public spaces to take people’s minds away from the everyday preoccupations of life, and what better place to do this than in a church. I have always loved the contemplative beauty of the interior of churches. And with my love for drawing faces and figures, for glass and storytelling, the opportunity to design these stained glass windows has been a special gift.”