Republished with permission from Mennonite Mission Network.
Mennonite Church USA arranged for a sculpture designed and built by Emma Zuercher, a 2023 graduate of Goshen College from Apple Creek, Ohio, under the mentorship of John Mishler, sculptor and Goshen College associate professor of art. The sculpture will be installed at the Mennonite Church USA offices building at 3145 Benham Avenue, Elkhart, IN.
An unveiling ceremony and reception will be held Wednesday, August 2, 2023, at 4 p.m.
As Goshen College Maple Scholars, Zuercher and 17 other awarded students spent eight weeks focusing on a particular area of research alongside a professor who serves as both supervisor and colleague. Zuercher was chosen as the artist for this project.
“We are grateful for Goshen College and their innovative Maple Scholars summer program that benefits the local community. We look forward to the many ways people will be blessed and inspired by Emma’s artistry and depiction of the Holy Spirit!” said Michael Danner, associate executive director for Church Vitality of Mennonite Church USA and executive director of Mennonite Education Agency, a building partner.
Mission Network Senior Executive of Operations Martin Gunawan, asked Zuercher to use her experience in Mission Network’s Service Adventure program as inspiration for the work. Zuercher spent 11 months in 2018-19 in the Colorado Springs service unit teaching art in Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs’ Possibilities, an adult day program focused on person-centered skill development and community inclusion.
Zuercher said Service Adventure was a significant experience for her in exploring what art can do for an individual and for a community. She said since then, a sense of “uplifting spirit” influences much of her work.
The 11-foot sculpture was built with aluminum from OmniSource Corporation, a processor and distributor of scrap and secondary metals.
Zuercher describes the design as reminiscent of the burning bush and the pillar of fire in the Bible’s Book of Exodus. She painted the piece with 10 colors to create complex layering resembling fire and motion. The continuity of color and repeating patterns is intended to draw the eye up. She also intentionally rubbed the paint off in places.
“I wanted to be able to see the metal as a reminder of what the material is and where it came from. You can also see a reflection of the area around the sculpture and how it fits the space and place,” said Zuercher.
Zuercher said her interest in art began early in life and was supported by her family and her church, Sonnenberg Mennonite Church in Kidron, Ohio. Her focus was three-dimensional art, especially ceramics, until just two years ago when she began learning to weld and started taking sculpture classes.
That new skill manifested in another metal sculpture on Main Street in Elkhart, “Shadows on the Ceiling,” as part of the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau Epic Art Adventures exhibit. Another of Zuercher’s sculptures can be found in downtown Goshen, an 11-foot Sandhill Crane named “Reginald.”
Mennonite Mission Network is a global nonprofit enterprise that leads, mobilizes and equips congregations to join God’s reconciling work, so that God’s healing and hope flow through everyone in the world.
Artist’s statement about the sculpture: The uplifting, flame-like spirit of this sculpture merges the elegance of movement with the ruggedness of the aluminum medium. Allow the interplay of color and shapes in the metal to draw your eye upward, through the piece, discovering new textures and patterns. Created through the Goshen College Maple Scholars Program.
Media contact: Jennifer Hayes, Director of Marketing and Communications, Mennonite Mission Network, 574-501-4139 or JenniferH@MennoniteMission.net.