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Utah Valley University unveils massive stained glass installation

OREM — A work of art more than a decade in the making was unveiled Friday at Utah Valley University.

The massive, 200-foot-long installation is the brainchild of Lehi-based stained glass artist Tom Holdman and UVU President Matthew Holland.

"Roots of Knowledge," as it is called, consists of 80 panels of stained glass that tell the story of human knowledge, starting with an image of a bristlecone pine named Methuselah known as one of the oldest living organisms in the world.

Along 80 panels and using 60,000 pieces of stained glass, the creation winds its way through the Roman empire, the building of the Jameh Mosque in Iran, the reign of Kublai Khan, the invention of the telephone, the Harlem Renaissance and more.

"Seventy-five years down the road, we hope this is still here," Holland said at the unveiling, which coincided with the university's 75th anniversary. "We trust that it will still be inspiring people to learn, to study, to push themselves and realize that they can have a monumental impact on the world around them through the principles that are associated with education."

The project is funded through more than $3 million in private donations, according to the university.

Some panels of "Roots of Knowledge" have traveled as far as New York City, Oxford and London, where the panel was presented at the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, an ancient organization dedicated to the preservation of stained glass.

UVU professors and students provided scholarly input, technical help and artistic talent.

Shae Anderson, a UVU student who took the semester off to help finish the project, said there are "no words" to describe the feeling of seeing it installed.

Anderson said her experience on the project has solidified her desire to become a professional artist.

"I've made so many professional connections through this," she said. "I've learned what it is to work with a team and trust yourself as an artist and to really put yourself into the work."

The university, which promotes a model of "engaged learning," worked with the Utah Education Network to create a companion curriculum based on the installation that will help guide visitors and field trips.

Holdman, whose glass creations have graced LDS Church temples in Rome, Paris and Palmyra, New York, said the unveiling is the culmination of more than a decade of obsession with one idea: "To tell the whole story of humanity."

He first approached Holland about the idea in 2009. Holdman, who has a speech impediment, said he is "at times slow of speech."

But art, he says, "helped me look for other ways I can speak to people."

Contributing: Sam Penrod