Artist leaves statewide legacy in stained glass

Jan. 9, 2018

When Ken Bird died Jan. 6, South Dakota lost a master of his craft.

While you might not know his name, odds are good you’ve seen his work.

It’s at the Sanford surgical tower, where two prairie-style patterns alternate in a long bank of windows designed from motifs in the windows of Frank Lloyd Wright.

It’s at the entry of the Mikkelsen Library at Bird’s alma mater, Augustana University.

It’s front and center in the lobby of the main building at The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.

It’s seen as soon as anyone walks into Avera Behavioral Health.

It greets visitors at Thunderstik Lodge near Chamberlain, where pheasants and Canada geese fly in glass over sliding doors going out to the Missouri River.

And – most prominently – his work overlooks worshippers at churches throughout the state, including St. Katharine Drexel Parish.

Stained glass art was an unplanned career for Bird, who grew up in Elk Point and survived polio as a child before graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Augustana and a master’s degree in counseling from USD.

He taught high school English, counseled students and directed school theater productions in Revillo and Lake Andes before moving to Rapid City in 1979. That’s where the teacher became a student, taking a stained glass class that changed his life.

In 1981, he moved to Sioux Falls and started Dakota Stained Glass, which is still in operation.

“His beautiful windows can be seen in churches, schools, hospitals, commercial buildings and homes, and will serve as a legacy for generations,” his obituary reads.

Bird also enjoyed teaching adults and children his art, and he repaired and restored many antique or damaged stained glass windows, including some that dated back to the 19th century.

Bird was 68 when he died Jan. 6 of lung cancer. For information on funeral services, click here.

Artist leaves statewide legacy in stained glass

When Ken Bird died Jan. 6, South Dakota lost a master of his craft. While you might not know his name, odds are good you’ve seen his work.

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