Antiochian Village unveils museum
- 2004.06.03 Valley Independent:
Antiochian Village unveils museum
By Dwayne Pickels and Emily Beaver
Friday, June 4, 2004
A museum dedicated to the lavish art, culture and Middle Eastern ancestry
of the Antiochian Orthodox Church will be the centerpiece of a new wing at
Antiochian Village Christian Conference Center.
With the $2.1 million, 16,600-square-foot addition, "we have spent a
minimum of $20 million to develop this place," said Metropolitan Philip
Saliba, primate of the North American Antiochian Orthodox Christian
"It was built not only for Antiochian people or people from the Middle
East," Philip said Thursday at a sneak peek of the facility in Fairfield
Township. "This place belongs to everybody, and we welcome everybody."
The new wing includes a 143-seat auditorium, storage vault and a
rare-book room for the center's 21,000-volume theological library.
The Antiochian Heritage Museum, set to open June 17, occupies the lion's
share of the new wing. It was designed to display and house the center's
collection of Orthodox artifacts, relics and icons, which are sacred images.
The opening exhibition, "Iconography, Religious Relics, Cultural
Artifacts," will showcase a broad selection of items reflecting the
Antiochian heritage of the past seven centuries.
"Not many people know much of this heritage," Philip said. "Hence the
importance of this museum."
Exhibits come from the center's 740-piece permanent collection,
previously stored in a small room in the center's basement.
They will be changed twice a year, said Denise O'Neal, director of
marketing and program development for the center, which has some 9,000
"You will see in the future many of our icons here," said Philip, who
donated many of the religious artifacts.
"I visited Russia twice and I was presented with many icons, and I
donated them to this museum," he said. "I want people to see them and share
the artistic beauty of these things."
Father Michael Massouh, executive director of Antiochian Village, added
that the museum "will provide an opportunity for us to share our heritage
and our faith with visitors and residents within the region while
maintaining the security and preservation of our special permanent collection."
Greensburg architect Peter Cecconi, who designed the new wing, said the
museum's layout provides "total security with minimal staff. It's similar,
coincidentally, to designs of newer museums in New York and other places in
the eastern United States."
Engineer Gerry Mattern, of Ligonier, said much attention was paid to
climate control for the sake of the fabric, wood and other materials used
in the displays, as well as the paintings. Ultraviolet light and humidity
are strictly regulated within the display area.
"You're not keeping people comfortable," Mattern said. "You're keeping
the exhibits happy."
The museum also will feature temporary exhibitions. The first is "A Man
from Lebanon: The Art of Kahlil Gibran."
Madelon Sheedy, of Laughlintown, guest curator of the exhibit, said it
comes courtesy of the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Ga. The 40 pieces
of original art will be on display from June 17 through Sept. 30.
The museum will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays,
Fridays and Saturdays, O'Neal said. Groups may arrange tours and visits on
other days by appointment.
The center has grown considerably since the archdiocese purchased the
nearly 400-acre site near Bolivar for $350,000 and started Antiochian
Village as a camp for children in 1979.
It expanded into a renowned retreat and conference center for Orthodox
Christians in 1985.
"In the early 1970s, I started looking for a quiet, beautiful place to
bring young people, and people in general," said Philip, a native of
Lebanon, who has long been fond of western Pennsylvania.
"I had seen so much restlessness and dissatisfaction in this country," he
said. "I wanted a place where people could escape the cities and their
problems, the drug culture, the sex culture, to discover God, discover
nature and learn how to relate to each other in a peaceful, godly way."
Dwayne Pickels and Emily Beaver can be reached at dpickels@... or
Images and text copyright © 2004 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.