Rockaway's Glass Master To Unveil Restored Rose Window

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On Sunday, April 7, the new and improved stained glass Great Rose Window of Blessed Sacrament Church, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, will be unveiled to congregants and guests. Over the past 16 months, the more than 100-year-old rose window, the third largest in the U.S., has undergone a major restoration by a local stained glass master—Patrick Clark of Sunlites Stained Glass.

If that name rings a bell, it’s for good reason. Clark has been living in Rockaway, restoring and creating his own stained glass masterpieces for more than 30 years. If you spot a stained glass work around town, it’s likely been touched by Clark. From St. Francis de Sales to St. Camillus, to Tribute Park and the 9/11 memorials of Breezy Point and Roxbury, Clark has certainly left his mark locally, and it all began with a project at St. Rose of Lima Church.

Originally from Spokane, Washington, Clark says he first came to Rockaway in 1986 to restore glass in St. Rose of Lima. “To make a long story short, I’m still here,” he said at his Sunlites Stained Glass studio on Beach 91st Street. Clark says he began dabbling in stained glass work as a teenager, when his family lived in Vienna, Austria. “A few friends and I had this hobby of crawling around old abandoned villas in Vienna and collecting treasures. When I was about 14, I rescued this old stained glass window from an old building in Vienna and I had this beautiful piece that I always wanted to repair, so I started learning about stained glass so I could fix that window and I fell in love with the work,” Clark said. Clark brushed up on his skills for his new hobby by taking various classes, including some at a stained glass business in Spokane, until he was talented  enough to start working for a business in Washington, where he continued to learn more. While Clark’s primary career was a professional youth worker, he officially changed gears when he opened his first stained glass shop in Spokane in 1982. However, in a town of roughly 300,000, work was scarce, so Clark offered his talent to other areas in need. When he encountered Rockaway while working at St. Rose of Lima, he decided it would become more than a place to piece together the church’s stained glass windows, but also a place to call home. “New York offered very exciting work and I love New York. But I settled here in Rockaway to work on St. Rose of Lima and I fell in love with the Rockaway community, the ocean and the bay,” he said.

Since moving to the community 33 years ago, Clark has made an impact on the local area. In the 1990s, Clark says he banded with other local artists and founded the Rockaway Artists Alliance. His work has not only appeared in various RAA exhibits, but places all across Rockaway, from churches to temples to schools, memorials and even personalized pieces for homes and businesses. In addition to the local 9/11 memorials, Clark says some of his most exciting work can be found in the entrance of St. Francis de Sales Church and the neighboring school.

However, Clark’s resume includes much larger and notable projects across New York City, including restoring the windows of the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral starting in the late ‘80s, a project with special meaning to him as a Catholic, as the church bears the name of his patron saint. “When I was 14 and my family was moving to Europe, we stopped in New York and went to St. Patrick’s and since then, it’s held a particular spot in my heart, so to go back there and do work for Cardinal O’Connor at the time was stellar,” he said. Another point of pride for him is a stained glass window in St. Patrick’s, made specially for Pope John Paul II to celebrate his visit to New York in 1995. Also, one of Clark’s largest projects includes restoring more than 100 windows in Manhattan’s St. Jean Baptiste Church.

However, the project that has been the center of Clark’s focus for almost a year and a half, has also been a daunting, yet exciting challenge. The Great Rose Window of Manhattan’s Blessed Sacrament Church was first built in 1918 by Clement Heaton. The 32-foot diameter piece features 240 panels, making it the third largest rose window in the country. The more than century-old project had to be dismantled, piece by piece, and taken to Clark’s Rockaway studio where he and a team of workers have worked around the clock on the tedious job of restoring or recreating each piece that was beyond restoration. Although the project has taken up much of Clark’s time, he says it has been a fun challenge. “What I really am is a troubleshooter and you don’t get to restore a rose window every day. I’ve worked with all different types of stained glass and have faced different challenges, which used to be scary and nerve-racking, but now I’m confident enough that there’s nothing we couldn’t figure out, and that makes it fun,” he said.

After Clark and his team worked their magic on the rose window, they replaced each piece back at the church in anticipation of a final reveal, which will be held this Sunday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m. during Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church (152 West 71st Street). The ceremony will feature the dropping of a curtain to unveil Clark’s hard work, plus performances by the Blessed Sacrament Parish Choir and world class organist, Jason Roberts, who Clark says is not one to miss. Clark will also be on hand to give a presentation and answer questions about his work. A reception will follow.

All are welcome to attend the unveiling. “It will be a very cool experience,” Clark said. “I don’t think there will ever be another rose window unveiled. So if you like art and beautiful work, it’s going to be a fun afternoon.”

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