The old St. David Chapel was a landmark. This meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a gathering place for 63 years in the small town of St. David, Arizona. But the time came that the building was deemed unsalvageable and had to be replaced. A new building was completed in 2011, and the old, crumbling structure was finally razed in April 2014. Though necessary, this event tugged at the heartstrings of tens of thousands of Church members who have worshipped there, as well as friends and neighbors who attended events from parties to weddings to reunions to funerals held within its walls.
Curtis Nolan, who heads the stake (a group of Mormon congregations in the area), had the idea that the beloved structure could be remembered through art. He asked Karina Bryant Stanger if she might be able to help.
Stanger is an artist who paints what her heart feels. She has a deep love for the community of St. David. Her Goodman and Curtis ancestors helped build the early community, and she herself grew up there. She has a fine arts degree from the University of Arizona, and has worked as a graphic designer, freelance artist, and part-time painting teacher at Cochise College in Willcox, where she currently resides.
She was honored to be asked to paint the historic church. Like many members of the community, this is the place she was baptized, spoke before she left to serve as a missionary, and where her wedding reception was held. She said, “When painting this meetinghouse, I wanted to capture its unique elements, such as its sitting right on the highway, its grand entry way, the surrounding mature trees, the Whetstone Mountains in the background, the Mormon Battalion monument, and especially the unique windows.” (The activity center in the building featured round windows, while the chapel and corner windows were rectangular.) Her goal was to recreate the feeling of peace and joy she had so often felt when attending church there on Sunday mornings.
As those who attend meetings in the new St. David Chapel can attest, she succeeded. Her painting hangs in the new meetinghouse. It depicts a striking representation of the old structure, using color and brush strokes that not only captivate the eye but move the hearts of those who share her fondness of the building.
Stanger’s painting will live as a reminder of the pioneers of the Church in southeastern Arizona, and rouse sweet memories as well as passing the legacy on to rising generations.