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Sam Maint's Sistine Chapel, continued

 

    Maitin constructed a trolley in his studio so that he could paint the long mural on the floor. His wife, Lilyan, pushed it back and forth, following her husband’s directions: to the left, to the right. “I couldn’t have painted it standing up because I wanted to use a wash effect, with no sharp edges,” explains the artist, adding that he believes “the final effect is appropriate because it remains quiet and non-intrusive.”
    It is based, he says, on a theme that is barely suggested: the elements of earth, fire, water, and sky. And the sky is enhanced by winged shapes or creatures that are mentioned in Isaiah. On the lower right-hand side, in pencil, the artist wrote “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh” (“Holy, Holy, Holy”). Moore, who now lives in Rockland, Maine, but remains a close friend of Maitin’s, remembers: “Although the mural dominated the space, it seemed to welcome people of all faiths to come and sit and ponder. Buddhists, Christians, and Jews all came to meditate in front of it.”
    Over time, the CA’s home at 3601 Locust Walk had become too large and costly to maintain, and the University bought the building in 1999. The association’s new quarters are in the former parsonage of Tabernacle United Church at 118 S. 37th Street. (This is the third home for the CA, which was established in 1891 as a campus outreach of the YMCA; it was originally housed in Houston Hall until 1928, when it moved to Locust Walk.)
    The mural was recently moved to the Great Room of the new building. Because the space is smaller, the mural doubles as a wall and becomes the focal point of the ground-floor room, which is used for meetings and social gatherings. The Chapel of Reconciliation is now on the third floor. At the moment, its sloping walls are bare, but the CA’s current executive director, Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale, commissioned Maitin to create another mural conducive to reflection and contemplation.
    “Sam has a long history with the Christian Association,” says Dale. “His tradition of activism coincides with our understanding of social justice. We approach it from different religions, but we are on the same page. Sam understands the importance of interfaith aspects.”
    While its location has changed, the organization’s mission remains the same. “It is a place where minds open and faith works,” says Dale, adding that it “promotes tolerance, dialogue, and the critique of culture and Christian tradition.” In recent times, it has supported the domestic-partnership laws for gays and lesbians and offered counseling and emotional support for women concerned about issues of reproductive planning. “We are also concerned with the persecution of Muslims in this country that grew out of Middle East conflicts,” says Dale. “We have always had one foot in the community and one foot on campus.”
    A coffee house is planned for the new space, where poets, artists, and musicians concerned with social justice may perform. A reading program will pair the elderly residents of a retirement home with third- and fourth-graders; and Penn students will be given the opportunity to work for Habitat for Humanity, and help people living with HIV/AIDs.

Above: The artist designed four silkscreen posters, based on his mural designs for the new chapel, and donated them to the CA. Posters created by Sam Maitin and Pearl Pressman Liberty Communications Group.
 

 

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