On Jan. 5, the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center got what every temple, citadel or other pious metaphor of higher learning needs. Stained glass.

Lincolnville artist Janet Redfield’s “Two Rivers” — a product of the Maine Arts Commission’s Percent for Art program — consists of an 18-inch high band of stained and clear glass panes, spanning a 60-foot wide wall of windows in the Hutchinson Center’s central atrium.

The piece takes its name from a pair of irregular blue rivulets of German blown glass that stretch the length of the piece, rising and falling and at one point taking a helical turn around each other. Dozens of circles, each filled with different patterns and colors of transparent and opaque glass, are interspersed throughout, appearing to tumble amid the crisscrossing streams.

The larger borders between colors are of traditional lead came, but within the circles, the borders disappear and the colors directly abut one another. To achieve the effect, Redfield arranged the cut pieces that would make up each circle — shapes that resemble checkerboards and checkers, shards, blades of grass, squiggles, bloated squares and dots — on a flat surface like a jigsaw puzzle and fired them in the kiln at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit until they fused into a single piece.

“I was basically trying to get the lead out of my life,” she said, “and this seemed like a good way to do it.” She admitted, though, the fusing process is somewhat toxic in other ways.

Several of the circles have taken a second trip through the kiln to incorporate delicate lines painted on their surfaces in gold luster, the same material that is sometimes used on china place settings.

While some of the fused glass and luster designs appear to be purely abstract, Redfield’s recognizable visual vocabulary comes together in some of the arrangements to form singular symbols, akin to a Scout’s merit badges.

Redfield said the circles represent “the flamboyant artistic history of Belfast,” while the intertwining blue strands represent the Passagassawakeag and Little rivers. Told the “rivers” could be interpreted as cross sections of waves, she put on the brakes. “It’s not too literal,” she said.

To achieve a feeling of space around the imagery, Redfield used clear window glass. At the Hutchinson Center, she mounted the composite panes over the existing windows and trimmed them with wood painted to match the aluminum window frames. The illusion is seamless, as though the stained glass rivulets were flowing, unsupported, from one window to the next, carrying the circles with them.

Redfield has been working in stained glass since 1973; she claims it was the first art form she tried her hand at. Her first exposure to an inspiring work in the medium came in her twenties when, while visiting Cape Cod, she saw a contemporary-looking Tiffany window.

“It wasn’t like any stained glass I had ever seen,” she said. “It wasn’t transparent, it wasn’t religious. I was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that.'”

“Two Rivers” is Redfield’s 23rd Percent for Art commission. She has installed similar pieces at Camden Hills Regional High School (“The Wave” in the cafeteria), Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock (“Rivers and Streams of Life”) and others in Gorham, Kennebunk and Massabesic. Each features variations on the theme of rippling lines and circles. She also has done Percent for Art commissions for the Rockland and Lincolnville ferry terminals.

Numerous public works contribute to Redfield’s livelihood, but private commissions make up the majority of her business. Samples of these on her Web site range from inspired versions of her own designs, installed in kitchens, to what could only be described as folly. As her bread and butter, Redfield wouldn’t describe them that way, but she said that having someone else make the creative decisions is often difficult.

“The fisherman’s too fat, or I want the frog turned the other direction. Or the family dog has to be in the corner.” she said. “That’s why these Percent for Art commissions are so great.”

“Two Rivers” is a permanent installation. The Hutchinson Center will host a “meet the artist” reception, Feb. 18, from 3:30 to 4:30. To see more of Redfield’s work, visit janetredfield.com.

VillageSoup reporter Ethan Andrews can be reached at 207-338-3333 or by e-mail to eandrews@villagesoup.com.