DANBURY, Conn. — If you're walking past the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish at 46 Stone St. in Danbury, a glimmer of light from above may catch your eye.
The light is from the new mosaic of Mary with baby Jesus on the facade of the Roman Catholic church.
The mosaic — called "Mater Ecclesiae," which is Latin for "Mother of the Church" — was commissioned by Sacred Heart's pastor, the Rev. Peter Towsley, and created by Brookfield husband-and-wife artists Bruce and Joanne Hunter.
The Hunters said they were honored to work on the 9-foot-high, 5-foot-wide religious mosaic.
“Mosaics are steeped in history. Creating this allows us to create art that is permanently placed, and the process itself is so much fun, relaxing and rewarding," said Joanne Hunter. They also own The Art Spot, a school of fine arts in Danbury.
In a phone interview, Towsley said he is impressed with the Hunters' work.
"It’s a beautiful piece. It's lit up from sundown to sunup so people stop and look," he said.
Joanne Hunter said she enjoyed the entire process of creating the mosaic -- from selecting the tiles and colors to creating the design and making the fabrication plan.
"One of the most rewarding things about working with mosaics is that it's artwork that's permanent in every sense of the word," she said.
Although the Hunters have been making mosaics for 20 years, this was the first piece of religious art they worked on.
Due to this, prior to creating the piece, they did a lot of research. "We wanted to pay the mosaic justice not only to the beautiful image but to the religious sanctity of the image,” she said.
Aside from looking on the Internet, they visited the Sacred Heart Chapel at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. “There are some very famous religious projects there,” she said.
It took the Hunters three months to create the piece. “It was a slow process. When it left our studio, we were sad to see it go," she said.
With the cold climate, the Hunters had to use a solid body porcelain on the mosaic "because water can get behind the glaze and once it freezes and thaws, the glazes will pop off."
"So, we had to be very creative in how we mix the colors to create the subtle tonal changes," she said.
Towsley said there had been a large plaque on the facade of the church that fell off. In its place, he wanted to put something that honored the parish's Polish history.
“The Franciscans were the community that managed the parish from 1925 to 2015. I wanted to honor that history,” he said.
The parishioners — as well as insurance money — covered the cost of the mosaic.
Hunter said The Art Spot offers mosaic classes for adults and children. “We very often will put mosaics into some of our mixed media classes for kids," she said.