Windows Art Work

Painted windows in Bet Shalom’s back hallway tell stories of our congregation’s history and of artist Kären Dahl’s Jewish journey.

I am a Jew by choice, a convert.  My experience as a Jew and part of the great Bet Shalom community  gives me a purpose for my life and my art. The love and pride I have for Bet Shalom motivated me to do something artistically that I could share with everyone who enters the halls of Bet Shalom.  Thus I created “Windows of Bet Shalom,” 36 paintings spanning six separate windows to commemorate our 30 year anniversary in 2011. The paintings tell a story about Bet Shalom’s history.  But the project became so much more for me: it reflected my personal journey through Judaism. 

The first window begins with the founding families sitting in the Nemers’ living room discussing the possibility of a new congregation. It also has scenes from the Hopkins building. The second shows the Torah march to our new building. Some panes show life cycle events, Jewish holidays and aspects of the Minnetonka building. Others involve special events and things that were important to me, like my trip to Israel in the fourth window and my conversion in the sixth window.

I chose to paint windows because they depict reflections of times gone by. These windows were from my neighbor’s house when they replaced them with new ones. Clearly I could use them one day to express my art meaningfully. My research included looking at photos, talking with the Rabbis, Cantor and congregants, and remembering my own experiences. I drew the scenes, then painted them and adding the mosaic glass with help from my artist friend Barbara Steen. It was challenging to arrange them in an order that made sense. 

I was going to start out with just a few windows but quickly realized there would not be enough to tell our story. It just so happened that I ended up with 36 paintings in all! What I thought would take me a few months actually took two years. It was definitely a labor of love!

Using my art to express our congregation’s and my story makes me feel a deep connection with Bet Shalom. I love the fact when people come into the hall, they can see the windows and feel that it’s their story, too. Seeing color and light on the darkest of days and bringing back past memories and experiences lifts our spirits and soothes our souls.