The story of the windows: Call for artists to depict the Clayborn’s 1968 story in stained glass

The Clayborn Temple is set to interview artists to depict historic 1968 Sanitation Strike in the temple’s stained glass – Info session Feb. 8, sketches due Feb. 21


“. . . in January of 1968, what did they look like? In April 1968, this is what they looked like. In 1979 they didn’t look like they did in 1982. And then there was more damage, damage over the years during the evolution of the windows. We’re just trying to piece that story together — the story of the windows — so we can figure out what part of the stained glass we’re going to keep, what part we have to keep because of historic preservation and what part we can replace with this story that we want to tell . . .” ~Anasa Troutman

The Historic Clayborn Temple has been awarded a grant to restore its stained-glass windows, a critical component in the overall building restoration. As Historic Clayborn Temple prepares for Phase II of the historic preservation and restoration process, The Clayborn Team is working to reimagine the stained-glass windows as a canvas that tells the story of The Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968. (No previous stained glass experience in necessary)

Historic Clayborn Temple is looking for a visual artist (Visit Clayborn.org here for more program details) that will redesign the massive South and West stained-glass windows to tell the story of the Sanitation Workers Strike and what happened at Clayborn Temple in 1968. The team is excited to use the windows, one that looks out onto Hernando St. and the other that looks over the I AM A MAN Plaza to highlight the men and women who forged a path forward for economic justice and human dignity in their historic campaign. 

Project Timeline 

Key project dates are outlined below. Dates are best guess estimates and are subject to change. 

  • Submissions Open: Jan 29th – Feb 21st, 2021
  • Artist Briefing: Feb 8th, 2021 REGISTER HERE
  • Finalist Notified: March 1st, 2020
  • Finalist Submission: March 1st – March 25th, 2020
  • Final Design Chosen: March 31st, 2021
The south-facing windows (left) and the west-facing windows (center) overlooking Hernando Street, are to be redesigned to tell the story of the 1968 Sanitation Strike (photo: Mark Fleischer, StoryBoard archives)

“After the 1968 march that turned into a riot, the windows were damaged because police were throwing tear gas through the stained glass windows. What they looked like on April 1st, 1968, and what they looked like on April 4th, were different. The decision to not go with traditional church imagery is not just about telling the story,” Clayborn’s Executive Director Anasa Troutman said in 2019. “It’s also about canonizing the story as part of our sacred history that deserves to be exalted and explored and expressed through stained glass in a sacred space.”

The Historic Clayborn Temple has partnered with The Collective (CLTV) to take on the restoration of Clayborn Temple’s stained glass windows. The selection panel expresses an interest in art that:                                                        

  • Animates the work of the Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968
  • Lifts up the unheard stories of The Strike
  • Tells the story of the past and the possibility of the future of Memphis

The commissioned artwork will be selected based on the above criteria. The final artwork must receive the approval of the National Park Service, The State Historic Preservation Office of Tennessee, and the selection panel. The artists selected shall be expected to collaborate closely with site engineers, landscape architects, and any necessary party for the successful installation of the project, including the community. 

A predetermined color pallet has been chosen to integrate with pre-existing glass. 

No prior experience with stained glass is necessary. Chosen artist will work with Pearl River Glass Studio to digitally translate the final design into stained glass.

Visit the stained glass page of Clayborn.org for more details and registration.

Read more about the full restoration in StoryBoard’s “Clayborn Reborn: The Sacred and the Vulnerable in the Clayborn Temple.

One of the damaged south-facing windows, overlooking the I AM A MAN plaza (photo: Mark Fleischer, StoryBoard archives)

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