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St. Mary's seeks inspired artists to adorn new chapel

St. Mary's School in Medford is calling out to local artists, hoping local creative types will add some flourish to new construction on campus.

The school broke ground on a new chapel Sept. 6, and is seeking stained-glass art and pieces to fill art niches. Artists have until Nov. 30 to submit design proposals for the 30 stained-glass window spaces and 14 art niches in the new chapel.

The chapel is being built alongside a new fine arts and athletic center, with both buildings set for completion in July of 2012, according to St. Mary's Principal Frank Phillips. The new buildings will cost the school an estimated $5.5 million.

Phillips said the fine arts and athletic center will provide much-needed classroom space. The school has filled two modular buildings and the former school board room with students.

"We are in dire need of the space," Phillips said.

The 30,000-square-foot art and athletic center will include an aerobics room, weight room, an athletic court and office space, along with five classrooms.

The school has 450 students on campus this year, and the space will help accommodate the steady enrollment the school has seen over the last several years.

Both the art and athletic center and the chapel are being constructed in empty space on the south end of the 24-acre St. Mary's campus.

"Right now, the south end of St. Mary's is really just a gravel wasteland," said Phillips.

The chapel, which is the first built at St. Mary's, is based on the design of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Italy, a structure St. Mary's students saw on a school trip in 2006.

According to Phillips, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia was the first cross-shaped building in Europe, built around the year 450.

"It's a nod to our Catholic heritage," Phillips said. "I think it will be one of the more architecturally interesting buildings in Medford that isn't a private home."

The chapel is being dedicated to former St. Mary's student and teacher Patrick Naumes, who died of cancer Oct. 4. Naumes, who traveled with students on most of their trips to Italy, taught at the school for 40 years.

"He was the longest-serving faculty member ever," said Phillips. "He devoted his life to this place."

Art for the chapel should have strong visible themes that are appropriate for viewing in a sacred space. Windows for the chapel will vary in size, with the largest being roughly 4 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 6 inches.

Phillips, who said the school wants designs to be from local artists, added he is curious to see what people come up with.

"It's kind of the great unknown," he said.

A committee will review art designs during December, and selected artists will have until May to complete their projects.

Those interested in submitting a design proposal or receiving more information can call 541-414-1208. The school's website is at www.smschool.us.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.

The architect for the project was Brian Westerhout of Ron Grimes Architects.