Art evokes burning bush or pillar of fire

John Mishler and Emma Zuercher with “Forged Spirit.” — Julian Gonzalez/Goshen College John Mishler and Emma Zuercher with “Forged Spirit.” — Julian Gonzalez/Goshen College

A sculpture designed and built by a 2023 Goshen College graduate was unveiled Aug. 2 at the Mennonite Church USA office building in Elkhart, Ind.

Emma Zuercher, from Apple Creek, Ohio, made the sculpture, “Forged Spirit,” under the mentorship of John Mishler, Goshen College associate professor of art.

She built the 11-foot sculpture with aluminum from a distributor of scrap and secondary metals.

She described the design as reminiscent of the burning bush and the pillar of fire in the Book of Exodus. She painted the piece with 10 colors to create complex layering resembling fire and motion. The continuity of color and repeating patterns is intended to draw the eye up.

Zuercher was one of 18 Goshen College Maple Scholars who spent eight weeks focusing on a particular area of research alongside a professor who serves as both supervisor and colleague. Zuercher was chosen as the artist for this project.

Martin Gunawan, MMN senior executive of operations, asked Zuercher to use her experience in MMN’s Service Adventure program as inspiration for the work. Zuercher spent 11 months in 2018-19 in the Colorado Springs, Colo., service unit teaching art in Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs’ Possibilities, an adult day program focused on skill development and community inclusion.

Service Adventure was significant for her in exploring what art can do for an individual and a community. Since then, she said, an “uplifting spirit” influences much of her work.

Zuercher’s interest in art began early in life and was supported by her family and her congregation, Sonnenberg Mennonite Church in Kidron, Ohio.

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