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General Motors Retiree Finds Second Career From Church Project

The art of stained glass can be seen in church windows and on Tiffany lamps. Many stained glass artists are just hobbyists, but one Columbus artist turned her hobby into a profession after helping to rebuild her church. Some might call Carletta Price's passion for creating stained glass artwork a bit serendipitous. Her passion began at the church where she and her family have worshiped for generations. Mount Carmel Community Baptist Church has been a part of the low-income, South Side community since 1926. It's surrounded by industrial sites. It was ruled unsafe and condemned in the mid-1990s after a storm damaged it. The old building was razed, but Price and members worked to build a new one nearby in 1996. "Money was short and we were almost at completion and they were getting ready to put curtains up to the windows. And I thought, oh, no, no, no, no," she said. Before the old church was torn down, Price salvaged as much as she could from it, including some of its stained glass windows. "I had thought that we could take these older windows and just cut them down and make them fit, but that was me being naive and just starting out. And I found it was a lot more work trying to renovate as opposed to being able to just go ahead and make new ones," Price said. At the time, Price worked at the General Motors Delphi plant on Georgesville Road. And in her spare time, she took beginners classes on how to make stained glass sun-catchers — the small objects you hang in windows. "And I thought I was really going to be just doing that until the situation appeared at the church," Price said. Making sun-catchers was fun, but Price took on the challenge of creating and designing stained glass windows for her church. She started in the sanctuary. Because of a tight budget, the new church installed colorless standard windows, which made Price's task even more difficult. The stained glass she made had to be framed and installed in front of the windows. The blue, white and gold pictures — three of the four are crosses — hold Biblical significance. But they also tell the story of Price's journey into stained glass art. The pieces progress from simple designs and techniques to more elaborate, detailed work. Price describes a window she made with her grandmother in mind. "I had gotten a little bit better by this time. This one which had the lilies of the valley, there's three of them. And the background for them is a blue. Trying to keep it all incorporated because it's in the main sanctuary. Everything is based on trying to make sure the vibrance and the light goes through to give the congregation pleasure while they're in church," Price noted. Price's skills improved as she crafted the windows for the main church. By the time its windows were finished, she had learned the difficult technique of cutting and piecing together old glass. And finally she was able to use some of the old stained glass she saved from the original church. Price had her sights on the vestibule's two large windows. It took two separate pieces to cover each of the large windows. They're connected by small chains. Georgia Hill, a member since the 1940s, said it's a delight to see the pastel-colored windows at the new church's entrance. It reminds her of the old church. "A lot of the older members, they're gone now, they dedicated those windows to the church and that's one of the main reasons why we wanted to have the original windows in. And so she saw a way to do that. And we appreciated that so much," Hill said. The church complete, Price's growing love for creating stained glass developed into a second career. She retired from Delphi in 2006 which allowed her to spend even more time in her backyard studio. Soon Price had stained glass everywhere. "I had already used up my windows at home. I'd already made them for my mother," Price said with a laugh. "So I had already exhausted all of my normal avenues." And to Price's relief, she was discovered by Roots Gallery and Cultural Center curator Francisca Figueroa. "She's very good at what she did. I just asked her, because we specialize in African and African-American art, if she could just give me some art that had more of an Africentric flair to it," Figueroa said. "And she started doing some things like the African masks and different images of African-Americans and things like that. So we immediately decided that we wanted to show her art and we did well at her exhibit." Figueroa has encouraged Price to show her work outside of Columbus, even out of state. She said natural, raw talent is rare. "You know it reminds me of some of the other local artists like Smokey Brown and Elijah Pierce who are self-taught artists. And so you know she has a gift," Figueroa said. Price said she never imagined a simple hobby, and then a church project would take her to having her pieces show and sell at a gallery. "It's a real pleasure," Price said. "Like I said, it's a labor of love."