BRYN ATHYN >> For those who love all things Christmas, there is really nothing like Glencairn Museum’s World Nativities.
Regular contributors to this annual exhibition include the creative team at Navidad Nativities in Doylestown, which designed and built five three-dimensional Nativity story scenes on exhibit this year among the dozens chosen from Glencairn’s own collection and on loan from artists, individuals and museums from around the world.
Central Bucks native Michael A. Stumpf, who established “Navidad Nativities” as a labor of love more than 20 years ago, turned it into a full-time venture after selling his marketing and graphic design company several years ago.
His atelier, just out the door from his Buckingham Township home, celebrates Christmas year-round now. The small space is filled with soft music, pine-y aromas, exquisitely crafted figures from around the world — and all the resources, tools, materials and works in progress you’d expect from an artist devoted to the study and creation of Nativities that tell the story of the birth of Jesus.
A few years ago, Stumpf met A.J. DiAntonio, a former Los Angeles producer with credits including the Oscars opening ceremonies. Like long-lost brothers from different parents, their shared obsession with Christmas and Nativity art inspired and fueled a prolific collaboration. In 2015, the two created the featured Nativity for Glencairn’s World Nativities exhibition: “the Bryn Athyn Nativity,” inspired by the art and architecture of nearby Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn itself.
Since then, Navidad has had several Nativities in each year’s exhibition. Two, which are now owned by the Museum, can be viewed this year, only on the “Christmas in the Castle” guided tour: the Bryn Athyn Nativity is on exhibit just outside the Pitcairn family chapel on the fifth floor, and the Antique Assisi Crèche is on the fourth floor.
Inspired by Old World Nativities in display cases, Stumpf and DiAntonio have begun experimenting with unusual containers to hold the Nativity scenes they design and build, such as antique pharmacy cabinets, oversized jewelry boxes and tabletop greenhouse structures. Two such creations are part of this year’s selections in the Upper Hall, the Renaissance Duomo Nativity and the Conservatory Crèche.
World Nativities 2018
Glencairn’s curatorial staff works throughout the year to acquire beautiful and inspiring Nativities from artists, and to borrow significant pieces from other museums. Each one is carefully researched and explained, and settings for the Nativities have been created by Bryn Athyn artist Kathleen Glenn Pitcairn.
This year a miniature Nativity Maker’s Workshop was crafted by New Jersey Nativity artist and frequent contributor R. Michael Palan for Glencairn’s tenth World Nativities exhibition. This unique diorama focuses on the creative process. Going behind the scenes, it shows in exacting detail the influences, tools and materials employed by one Nativity artist — a figure made by Palan’s wife that bears a striking resemblance to her husband — as he works. It also displays many tiny examples of Nativity traditions from around the world, while the whole scene exudes Palan’s signature humor and joy.
“Michael’s work, and that of his wife, artist Karen Loccisano, expresses the excitement and wonder of the Advent season,” says Ed Gyllenhaal, who co-curates the annual exhibition with his wife, Kirsten Hansen Gyllenhaal. “This remarkable Nativity workshop scene reminds us that all the Nativities in this exhibition were born in the hearts and minds of individual artists, each one employing their own unique personal and cultural perspective.”
World Nativities can be viewed daily 12 to 4:30 p.m. through January 6 (closed only December 24 and 25) for a suggested donation of $5 or as part of Glencairn’s paid guided tour, “Christmas in the Castle.” There is also no charge to meet with the artists — look for a schedule of appearances, as well as other Christmas at Glencairn activities and workshops, on the Glencairn website or contact Visitor Services at 267.502.2990 or info@GlencairnMuseum.org.
GLENCAIRN MUSEUM, a National Historic Landmark and part of the Bryn Athyn Historic District (including Cairnwood, built 1892-95, and Bryn Athyn Cathedral, 1913-19), houses a collection of religious art and artifacts from around the world and serves as a museum of the history of religion. Glencairn itself, built in the Romanesque style between 1928 and 1939 by Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn for their family’s home, was given to the Academy of the New Church in 1980 after Mildred Pitcairn’s death. A treasure open to the public, Glencairn Museum now offers tours of its tower and 6 floors depicting world religious history as well as a glimpse into the family’s personal life, visiting art and object exhibits, workshops, concerts, seasonal programs and its popular annual “Christmas in the Castle” tour featuring outstanding examples of Nativity art. For more on the Museum or becoming a member: 267.502.2600, info@GlencairnMuseum.org or www.GlencairnMuseum.org.