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The original version of this post mis-identified one of the students that worked on the banner project. The student interviewed for this story was Jennifer Parker.

Arlington Temple church looks to brighten up Rosslyn

October 5, 2010 - 05:00 AM
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Pastor Cathy Abbott
Pastor Cathy Abbott of the Arlington Temple church looks out from the church's entryway. She and the congreation are trying to add color to its exterior. (Photo: TBD Staff)

As an odd-shaped building on stone legs dwarfed by Rosslyn’s ever-growing skyscrapers, the Arlington Temple United Methodist Church already stands out.

Its exterior is gray, though, much like the rest of the neighborhood, and that monochromatic feel is something the church is hoping to remedy later this fall.

Colorful new banners will be installed along the “skywalk” walkway adjacent to the church’s second level entrance, thanks to a collaboration with students at the Art Institute of Washington.

Students worked with the church to design signs for the walkway between the Rosslyn Metro station and the church’s second-floor entrance. They also created five larger banners that will form a mural facing Nash Street, making the church more visible -- from above, perhaps appropriately -- to passing cars and pedestrians.

The church was looking for a way "to contrast the concrete canyon," Arlington Temple pastor Cathy Abbott says. Working with students from the neighboring Art Institute was a natural fit with the church’s goal to be a community-oriented space.

She sat down with several students from a graphic design class at the school to talk over the project. They all agreed that the inside of the church was "warm, colorful, and energetic," according to Abbott. The words they chose for the outside, however, were more along the lines of "industrial, gray, and depressing."

"So I said, 'your assignment is to come up with images that would draw people like yourselves into the church,'" Abbott says. "'What would make you want to come inside?'"

What they came up with exceeded her expectations. The large banners will depict a tree that has sprouted from a single mustard seed and become a home to birds and other creatures nearby. The other, smaller signs depict words and images touting the church’s values: “extravagant generosity, radical hospitality,” among others.

UMC Banner Design
A rendering of the banners that Art Institute of Washington students created to hang outside the Arlington Temple church in Rosslyn. (Rendering courtesy Arlington Temple UMC)

Jennifer Parker Smith, a recent graduate who worked on the project, says that she has been impressed by the changes coming Rosslyn in her time at the school, including outdoor events and the colorful additions to the outdoor space at North Moore Street and Wilson Boulevard.

The banners help speak to that transition, she says. “In addition to bringing life to the church, we kind of wanted to bring sense of community," she says. "They’re really involved in the community, so it’s not just about religion, but also about being a better person in general, which is something that everyone can really relate to."

Having this universal appeal also led to the students’ choice to incorporate many different colors into the banners, according to AI senior Zehra Sikandar. "We originally had the main color as green, but then we thought that everyone has their own choice of colors," she says. "Different colors bring up different feelings for everyone, so we thought we should have more colors, so we can tie all of it together."

The church is in the middle of an ongoing renovation of the exterior of the building, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. As for the banners, Arlington Temple is still waiting for the verdict from Arlington County on whether they constitute "signs" under the county’s sign ordinance, but Abbott is hopeful they will be installed later this fall.


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