Christopher Armstrong-Stevenson founded the Trinity Iconography Institute based at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, in early 1996 in response to requests from some members of Trinity. Armstrong-Stevenson had begun his own – earlier, study of icons and iconography almost by mistake.
As a second grader, going to school in his hometown, London, England, he was instructed by his teacher, to “learn something useful; you’ll never be any good at art” as she dropped his “art” into the waste-paper bin. Dutifully, he replied, “Yes Miss” and some 15 years later “commissioned” his first watercolor; so began a lifetime interest in collecting art, since he obviously “couldn’t do art” himself. His collection of original art-pieces is now much larger, still includes that first watercolor.
In 1994, desiring to add an icon to his collection, Armstrong-Stevenson decided to find out something about icons before making what could be a substantial investment in such an esoteric “work of art.” Momentarily forgetting everything he knew about Greek, and seeing a Portland Community College catalog offering a class in “Iconography” – taught by Thomas Howard, he signed up for the class. In doing so he had forgotten that any Greek word ending in the suffix “graphy” means “to write” … not to study. The proper Greek suffix for “the study of” is “…ology.”
Howard suggested to Armstrong-Stevenson that it was about time he forgot his grade-school teacher’s ultimatum over 60 years ago and start to think for himself, then assigned him to write two icons at once (one to work on while the other dried sufficiently to work on again!) The rest, as they say, is history.
The Iconography Institute began in 1996 with its first instructor being Thomas Howard. After two years, Mr. Howard experienced a change in his religious and spiritual direction and ceased teaching iconography. In 1999, after an interim period when several other instructors were obtained, Sherry Lynch, at that time a resident of LaCenter, Washington, was invited to become the resident Master Iconographer and Instructor at Trinity. Sherry Lynch was widely known in iconography circles, and in the Diocese of Oregon, under her former name of Sherry Bettendorf. The Bishop’s Chapel at The Close in Lake Oswego has a reredos composed of five icons by Bettendorf/Lynch, which Bishop Bigliardi, then Ordinary of the Diocese, commissioned in the late 1970s.
As Director of the Iconography Institute, Armstrong-Stevenson arranged for classes, instructors, exhibitions, budget, general administration and all relationships with Trinity’s Dean, clergy and staff. In addition, Bishop Johncy Itty, the Diocese’ former Bishop, on occasion called upon him to discuss matters related to Iconography. Bishop Itty invited Armstrong-Stevenson and Deirdre Steinberg, Editor of the Diocesan publication “Episcopal Church News” to develop the Iconography Institute’s web pages as part of the Diocesan website.
Armstrong-Stevenson also arranged for exhibits of icons, iconography demonstrations, and presentations in such places as Mount Angel Monastery and Seminary and to members of other Churches in the Portland area, and other groups, on the history, practice and place of iconography in contemporary Western Christian life and worship.
In early 2019, Armstrong-Stevenson announced his wish to retire from the Directorship of the Trinity Iconography Institute.
Professionally, he was formerly a Hospital Administrator; international consultant on Healthcare Services and Manager of an Oregon State Government Regulatory Agency for Healthcare Facilities, from all of which he retired in 1990. He currently resides in St. Helens, Oregon and recently began planning his relocation to the Northern Oregon coast where he has become active in the Gearhart-based Trails End Art Association; he has 4 living adult children, (his first-born son pre-deceased him in infancy) and many Grandchildren and Great grandchildren, in addition to two Great-Great-grandchildren.